The popularity of group live-streaming is on the rise, with Houseparty, from the makers of Meerkat, now at 20 million users, and leading the charge. That's caught the attention of Facebook, which, instead of letting Houseparty gain significant traction and become a problem (ala Snapchat) is looking to fend off potential competition by developing their own group streaming tool.
Their challenger, called Bonfire, has been in development for several months, and is now available to users in Denmark.
And based on anecdotal reports, it certainly will rival Houseparty, with a range of tool and features to put it ahead of the app.
Just like Houseparty, Bonfire enables you to participate in group chats with friends - but importantly, as noted by TechCrunch, you don't actually have to download the app to participate. Facebook has cleverly added an option to invite friends to participate in a chat via Messenger, which means you can add in anyone direct from a Messenger link, without them needing to have Bonfire specifically installed.
This is important because many of Facebook's other clone app efforts (like Slingshot and Poke) have failed to gain traction because they were totally separate from Facebook's main apps - meaning you needed all your friends to download new apps in order to get any use out of them. As best demonstrated by Instagram Stories, Facebook's better off utilizing their massive scale to advantage in this regard, making it as easy as possible for the users they have to switch across.
Of course, the ideal in that case would be to have Bonfire integrated into Facebook itself, but having a solo app also maintains a level of separation, which is important for Facebook to gain traction among younger, more privacy conscious users.
And that's clearly the audience Facebook's going for - when Instagram launched Instagram live-streaming back in November, Instagram product manager Shilp Sarkar noted that:
"The use case that caught our attention was people just hanging out on live, particularly young people. After school, they jump on a livestream and hang out. That use of live [video] is particularly interesting to us."
This is where Houseparty has gained traction - with Bonfire, Facebook's hoping to break into that by also adding in new video masks and filters which further enhance the group chat experience.
When your mom tries to pull off your outfit pic.twitter.com/qxQlb0gtkz- Ben Rubin (@benrbn) September 13, 2017
A comparison of Houseparty (left) and Bonfire - from Houseparty CEO Ben Rubin
Further, Facebook's also giving users the ability to share screenshots of their chats on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger (which is also an option in Messenger group video chats), while there are also additional presentation options, like the ability to alter the screen share of participants.
It seems like a smaller consideration, a smaller element within the wider Facebook video push, but as noted, Houseparty has grown to 20 million users within 18 months, and had more than 1.2 million daily actives after just 8 months on the market. Houseparty also claims to have facilitated more than half a billion video calls, while more that 60% of the app's users are under the age of 24.
Those figures sound very Snapchat-like, and Facebook will be keen to quell any such competition before it becomes a significant challenge.
As such, you can expect The Social Network to announce a wider release of Bonfire in the very near future.
Facebook has confirmed that Bonfire has been launched as a small-scale test in Denmark, with no further information at this stage.