Group Chat Apps 101: Taking Over College

Let’s pour one out—one foamy Solo Cup keg beer—for the simple two-way text. The new class of group chat apps are integrated, well-funded, and streaming 24/7.

Is digital chilling replacing IRL hang outs? Are phones behind the decline in teenage drug use? The answers may be in these new digital products.

#groupchat #airtime #videochat #kik #houseparty

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Kik unveiled video chat last December with a unique approach: staying true to the text-based experience by containing the video streams in small conversational bubbles. This allows users to continue a dynamic collage of a conversation, including Emojis and links. The next frontier: arming their their wildly popular Chatbots with video capabilities. We live in Westworld now.

Followers: 182k

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Nearly exactly a year ago, Meerkat morphed into Houseparty, a multi-way video chat that never stops. Users can add and invite friends from other social networks, and then get and send push notifications. It’s like the equivalent of turning on your living room lights and letting someone know you’re home—if you’re hosting, up to seven others can join, in effect introducing your mutual friends to each other. Apparently the users fall between 16 and 24 and log on multiple times a day.

Absent a flashy Meerkat-style roll-out, Houseparty smartly appointed the most recognizable totem of part life as its icon: an unbranded red plastic cup. Users spell out their school’s initials in them, upload pictures to Instagram, and in effect become ambassadors.

Followers: 4,807

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Nevermind that calming photo. Airtime is stressful. Sean Parker’s integrated streaming app lets up to ten linked friends video chat, play music, watch videos and text at the same time. Given the founder’s expertise in early-to-the-party, community-driven digital experiences, maybe we should get on board.

Followers: 19.8k

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It’s simple: the best product solves a distinct and immediate need. Fam did just that, creating an iOS extension that makes multi-person FaceTimes possible.

Followers: 2,016

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Not new, not integrated, not optimized for group chats, not…organized at all. Why is Twitter on this list? All of these apps owe a lot to the original micro-messaging platform. Twitter might seem disinterested in its users pleas for new products (and its responsibilities as one of the more influential political campaign vehicles…), but it knows where those users are spending their time otherwise: Twitter’s Instagram strategy makes use of the platform’s visual nature by slapping the # symbol it partly helped popularize on beautiful pictures. “Continue the conversation on Twitter” is a constant caption, and a reminder that Twitter isn’t giving up on itself.

Followers: 69.4k


Something to help you gaze outward, and get off the phone—the fantastic new memoir of writer Joan Juliet Buck.