Zoom vs. Houseparty: The Best Video Chat Apps, Compared
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world scrambling for ways to stay in contact. And video chat apps are one of the easiest ways you can keep in touch with friends and family.
Two video chat apps are making more headlines than most: Zoom and Houseparty. Both video chat apps promise to keep things simple, allowing you to video chat with multiple people at once. Better still, both Zoom and Houseparty are free to use.
So, how do you choose between them? In this article, we pit Zoom versus Houseparty to see which is best…
Zoom vs. Houseparty: Which Is Best?
There are three important criteria to consider:
- Security and Privacy
- Ease of Use
These three categories contain the most important information that will help you decide between Houseparty and Zoom. You can explore the information in detail or check out the table below for a quick overview.
Zoom vs. Houseparty: Features
First things first: which video calling app has the best features?
This is an interesting question because it depends on what you want from your video chat app. Before the pandemic, Zoom’s focus was on enterprise customers. Home users calling friends and family were not a priority for Zoom. In that, the feature-focus slants toward business users.
Using the basic plan, Zoom users can add up to 100 participants in a call that lasts a maximum of 40 minutes. Once the time expires, Zoom ejects all users from the video chat. You can upgrade to a premium account to remove the time restrictions. Or you can just reconnect and continue chatting.
As you can see in our overview of Zoom , the app also features integrated chat, screen sharing, local recording, multiple screen layouts (handy when you have several participants), and various meeting scheduling options.
Zoom is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and through most web browsers.
Houseparty, on the other hand, was built with fun and games in mind. Eight participants can connect to a Houseparty video chat. There is no time limit, and you can drop in and out of Houseparty chats by selecting the next room.
Now, here’s the thing. Houseparty attempts to offer the “experience” of a party. You move through rooms, chat with different people, and find the mood that suits you. A Houseparty video call starts as soon as you launch the app. Moreover, your room launches without a lock, so anyone from your contacts list can join from the outset.
This extremely open approach is, in part, what has led to Houseparty’s success. But it is also one of its most glaring security and privacy issues.
Once you’re in a Houseparty video chat, you can launch one of the integrated games and start playing. Games include Heads Up! (virtual charades), Trivia (a quiz game), Quick Draw (somewhat like Pictionary), and Chips and Guac (which is like a clean version of Cards Against Humanity).
Houseparty is available on Android, iOS, macOS, and through the Google Chrome web browser.
Zoom vs. Houseparty: Security and Privacy
When you engage in a video chat, you want to feel secure. That means no snooping, no chance for video-based intruders, and options to control the security of the app. Can you trust Zoom or Houseparty with your next business meeting or family quiz night?
Zoom Security and Privacy
At the time of writing, Zoom has a terrible reputation regarding security and privacy. Regardless, it remains extremely popular in the face of adversity. How much of that comes from users unable to switch services now that their business or school is using Zoom? We don’t know.
What is well understood, however, is that Zoom has a poor reputation regarding security and privacy. Which is why we dedicated a whole article explaining how to secure your Zoom chats . Zoom’s meteoric rise caught the development team napping. Suddenly, the eyes of the world were focusing on and pulling apart the app and its inner workings.
Sure, there’s no doubt Zoom gives a good experience, on the surface. Under the hood, though, I had Zoom repeatedly float to the surface when teaching a workshop on how to identify suspicious behavior while doing malware hunting on macOS.
— Thomas Reed (@thomasareed) March 30, 2020
As well as Zoom’s privacy issues, users face a new type of online threat: Zoom-bombing. A Zoom-bombing attack is the act of crashing an insecure Zoom video call. The intruders then display offensive material or cause a general menace, forcing participants to leave.
Although Zoom did improve the default password option for Zoom meetings, you should still learn about Zoom-bombing and how to protect yourself .
Houseparty Security and Privacy
Houseparty’s security and privacy is a mixed bag.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several websites reported that Houseparty suffered a major data breach. Furthermore, the app was allegedly insecure, and hackers could use the app maliciously.
No evidence ever came to light regarding the data breach allegations. What’s more, Houseparty owner, Epic Games (of Fortnite and Gears of War fame) announced a bounty of $1 million for anyone that could find specific evidence of the leak. The bounty is as yet unclaimed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020
Potential data breach aside, Houseparty still has a few privacy and security issues . For one, when you sign up to Houseparty, you agree to let them use any footage from your video chats in their marketing or advertising.
Which leads to the next issue. Houseparty offers very little in the way of encryption to protect your video call from snoopers. Is someone interested in your family game of Trivia? Probably not. But the potential for exploitation is there.
On the plus side, you cannot search for people online. This means that it is highly unlikely that a stranger will crash your Houseparty.
Houseparty is not grabbing negative headlines for its security and privacy issues. At least, not to the same degree as Zoom. It definitely helps that Epic Games and Houseparty didn’t make a series of claims about the security of their products, only to have to walk those claims back under the scrutiny of security researchers and privacy advocates.
Still, Houseparty is a long way from perfect.
Zoom vs. Houseparty: Ease of Use
The final thing to consider is ease of use. How easy is it to use Zoom or Houseparty to make a video call? What about using the more advanced features?
Zoom Ease of Use
Zoom is incredibly easy to use. Anyone with a webcam and microphone can create a Zoom video call and begin inviting people. Likewise, anyone can click a Zoom link and enter a video chat. The web interface is mostly intuitive, as are the Android and iOS apps.
One area that Zoom could improve on is hiding options deep within the various settings menus. Three different settings menus relate to different aspects of Zoom. At times, finding the correct option for the setting you want to change can take a while. Furthermore, for less technical users, the array of options available can feel overwhelming.
In terms of hosting a video chat for a large volume of people without requiring much technical know-how, Zoom is a useful option.
Houseparty Ease of Use
Like Zoom, Houseparty is extremely easy to use. Once you sign up and add your contacts to the app, you can begin to search for your friends and family. Houseparty shows a list of active chats that you can join, too.
As for entering the Houseparty app, straight into an active room, there is a way to join in incognito mode. When launching the app, hold down the Houseparty icon. You can then select the “Sneak into the House” option, which allows you to enter the app without alerting any other users.
Zoom vs. Houseparty: Which Is the Best Video Chat App?
How you use Houseparty or Zoom depends on the type of video chat you want to have.
If you’re meeting up with family and friends to play some games, Houseparty is a great option. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a business meeting or attempting to teach a class, Zoom is better suited to the job.
As one review states, Houseparty is like the happy-hour of video calling, while Zoom is the office job. And that’s a pretty accurate statement.
Of course, Houseparty and Zoom are not the only video chat apps around. You could try Jitsi, the open-source and privacy focused alternative which offers similar functionality to Zoom. Or, if you have previously used Skype, here are the best free Skype alternatives giving you even more options.