(Pocket-lint) - Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, then you might have noticed that besides the coronavirus, everyone is talking about Houseparty.
It's the app that's suddenly seen a resurgence in popularity since everyone's stuck at home and can no longer easily see their loved ones.
If you're wondering what it is and how you use it, then you've come to the right place.
What is Houseparty?
Billed as a "face-to-face social network", Houseparty is an app that's gaining users rapidly because of its simple ability to host easy group video chat.
It's appealing because it's simple to use. You can dip in and out of a "house" rather than having to make a call, plus the barrier to entry is low requiring only basic personal details (yet you can find your friends very easily). As you'll hear, you can also play games with your quarantine buddies which is one of the key features.
It's not a new app though - it's actually been around since 2016 and in 2019 was bought by Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite.
Is Houseparty free?
Yes, like a few of the other video calling apps out there at the moment, Houseparty is free to use and free to join up. There are some in-app purchases available, but they're not a requirement of using the service.
How to download Houseparty
The app is free to download and has shot up the charts on both Google Play and the App Store. At the time of writing it's amongst the top downloaded apps on both stores.
How to use Houseparty on your PC or laptop
There's also a Google Chrome extension so you can use it on PCs. You'll need to use the Google Chrome browser (if you aren't already) then install the extension, sign in to Houseparty and you're away. The Chrome extension isn't quite as rich as the app - you can't play games at the moment for example, but you can still video chat with friends.
There's also a web-based version in beta that you can use with other browsers.
How do you get friends on Houseparty?
Houseparty uses your friends on other social networks - like Facebook or Snapchat - to make you aware that your friends have signed up, so once you sign up you're quickly aware of others already using it and vice versa. You can send your friends an invitation link alternatively.
It isn't connected to your phone number (although you can import your phone contacts) and it's specifically designed for social chats unlike something like Zoom that's a business app that's been repurposed for group socials in these difficult times. And as we mentioned you don't need to make a call like on Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime - you can simply drop in.
How does Houseparty work?
Once you've found your friends, the Houseparty app alerts you when your friends are "in the house" and so ready to chat. It's the same when you open your app - your friends are alerted. In normal life, this could be a bit annoying we feel, but in a quarantined world, we found it's quite refreshing.
You can then jump right into a call. You can also join other "houseparties" that your friends might be part of, so it's a lot more fluid than other services which have rigid groups.
Part of the fun of Houseparty is that you can choose from a few games to play as a group. The quiz is the most fun in our opinion (although a bit US-centric) and you quickly get competitive. It would be good to see even more group games appear although some of the games have extra options to download more questions or themes.
The games - which can be played by up to eight people simultaneously - include Heads Up!, Chips, Trivia, and Quick Draw - they're all quite fun and competitive.
What is facemail?
You can send people facemails - yes, really - that are just video messages that appear as soon as the recipient opens up the app.
How to change your name on Houseparty
When you signed up to Houseparty, you chose a username, but don't worry you aren't stuck with it. It's possible to change your Houseparty username easily enough.
Click the face in the top left corner, then the cogwheel to access settings and click edit profile. From there you can access and change basic profile settings like your username, email address and such. It's simple to do in just a few clicks.
Is Houseparty safe?
There have been rumours circulating online that Houseparty is unsafe to use. With people spreading the news that the app is related to personal information hacks including bank accounts, Spotify and Netflix accounts and more.
There's nothing currently to support this rumour. The company has also made it clear that no accounts have been compromised and the data is safe:
All Houseparty accounts are safe - the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 30, 2020
It has also announced that these rumours may be part of a smear campaign against the app, with the offer of a $1 million reward if anyone has any proof.
We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty. We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to email@example.com.— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020
At this point, there is no reason to think that Houseparty is unsafe to use.
We do, however, encourage you to make sure your account is secure by using a long and complex password that's different to passwords you use elsewhere, along with a secure password manager.
How to stop strangers joining your Houseparty
By default, it's possible to for people you don't know to join your Houseparty and invade your video chats. This is obviously not ideal unless you're trying to make new friends.
It is possible to set the app to private mode to prevent this from happening.
To do it in the Houseparty app, click the face in the top left corner, then the cogwheel to access settings and then the private mode.
How to delete your Houseparty account
If you've decided you no longer want to use Houseparty it is possible to delete your account, remove the app and even have your data deleted.
Within the app, you can delete your account by going through these steps - Account > Settings > Privacy > Delete Account.
"You may inquire as to whether we are Processing Personal Information about you, request access to Personal Information, and ask that we correct, amend or delete your Personal Information where it is inaccurate. If you are a User, we may provide you with tools and account settings to access or modify your Personal Information associated with your account, such as your profile picture, name, username, email address and phone number. Where otherwise permitted by applicable law, you may send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org...Please include your full name, email address associated with your account, and a detailed description of your data request. Such requests will be processed in line with local laws."