Life On Air, the startup that previously launched the Meerkat video streaming app, is announcing today the launch of a new app called Houseparty, which lets many people hang out with each other on video. The app is available for Android and iOS, and the team is considering adding a desktop version.
In March, after Meerkat had lost popularity, the startup announced that it was changing direction and building something new. Leading up to that announcement, Life On Air had started testing Houseparty, which reached No. 2 on Apple’s App Store in May. But, at the time, Life On Air did not say that it was behind the app, even after reports circulated indicating as much. Now it’s official, so people can give the app a try knowing that a venture-backed startup is behind it.
“On the surface it feels like it’s a super-fast ‘group Facetime,’ and what’s gets us really excited is that it’s actually the atomic unit (first step) for our vision to build a synchronous social network where people hang with their friends when they physically apart,” Life On Air cofounder and chief executive Ben Rubin told VentureBeat in an online chat. “The app is spreading throughout colleges in America, and we just hit a million users!”
— Lisa Mueser (@Listoronto12) September 23, 2016
Apple’s FaceTime video calling app could be said to be a competitor of Houseparty, and so could Google’s Hangouts, or its recently launched Duo, along with Microsoft’s Skype. But Houseparty is a bit more whimsical, as it lets you wave an emoji hand to say hi to your friends — one or many in a given “house” — and then start a video call. If you rotate your mobile device, the video streams of you and your friends quickly change orientation, too.
In March 2015, the team behind Meerkat announced a $14 million funding round. The startup recently laid off its employees in Israel and is in the process of doubling the size of its San Francisco headquarters. A new head of engineering recently completed a reorganization, Rubin wrote.
Since Life On Air stopped updating Meerkat, Google brought an easy livestreaming feature to its YouTube app for Android and iOS, and Facebook Live has gotten updates and a series of high-profile streams, including some of the Trump Tower in New York. But clearly the team thought the Meerkat model, which Twitter’s Periscope resembled when it launched after Meerkat, was not ideal.
“With HP [Houseparty] we are trying to take what’s meaningful in live and bring it to everyday use,” he wrote.