How to host (and not host) parties online
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
The long answer: I was underwhelmed by all of the below that the news is touting lately. And people get annoyed when you ask them to download and register for things they’ve either never used or heard of. (I do, too.)
Netflix Party I hope Netflix finds a way to incorporate this into their service, because there are too many steps to start it and no one wants to watch a movie on their computer. Here’s the insane number of steps:
Visit NetflixParty.com and hit the “Get Netflix party for free!” button. Then hit the “Add to Chrome," ”Add Extension” and ”Install Netflix Party” buttons. Then sign into Netflix on your desktop using Chrome and start any movie or show you want to watch with friends.
Next hit the red “NP” button in the top right of your Chrome browser. Then check the box that says “Only I have control” and hit the “Start the party” button. Then copy the link provided and send it to your guests in an email. (Be sure to tell them they’ll need to download the Netflix Party Chrome extension first and click the red NP icon to join the party after clicking the invite link.)
Once everyone is on the same Netflix page, you can type into a chat while you watch the same thing on your desktop. This is neat, but you could start any streaming service you want at the same time and text each other during without having to install something and sit at your computer, instead of sitting, or lying, comfortably in front of your TV.
Apparently you can go outside of Netflix (HBO, Hulu and Amazon Prime) with something called twoseven. But I haven’t tried it yet, and it’s supposed to be even harder to use.
Houseparty is a smartphone app where you can chat with up 8 folks at a time. I’ve tried it out and you can only video chat with others that are already registered for it. You can invite them, but who needs another app? The video quality is good, but you can chat with a lot more people with FaceTime and Facebook Messenger and most already have either an iPhone or Facebook, or both. But you can play four built-in board games with other people on this (Chips and Guac, Heads up, Quick Draw and Trivia) if you can get them to download it.
I liked the video quality on this one a lot, but you can only video chat with up to 8 people at a time.
This is easier to get people on since most already have a google account and all they have to do is sign into it from here. But you can only video-chat with up to 10 people at a time, so… I guess that’s why it’s not called Google Party. But you can group chat with up to 150 people at once.
Marco Polo: This one is fun because you can record and send videos through the app that friends and fam can watch later on their schedule, and vice versa. But, so far, a lot of people haven’t heard of it. And you can only send videos to folks who have downloaded the app.
If you already have this app, great, but I thought it was the same thing as Facebook Messenger, so I don’t think it’s as ubiquitous as the news claims. And it only allows video calls to up to 16 people, so why settle for less? But you can group chat with up to 256 people at once.
Zoom was originally intended for work meetings, but many use it to host parties as well. To host on Zoom, visit Zoom.us and hit the “Sign up, it’s free” button. Then enter your personal email (into the field that asks for your work email) and hit the “Sign Up” button. After it emails you, hit the “Activate Account” button and follow the steps to create your account. After you invite your guests, start a meeting and enable your video and sound, you can host a meeting (party) for free for 40 minutes, for up to 100 people at a time. One-on-one meetings don’t have the 40-minute time limit.
In other words, this is complicated to set-up, and anyone you invite is going to be confused when they’re asked to “join a meeting” and enter their “work email.” It wasn’t intended for parties. I think people keep using it because you can host 100 people at once for free. But I don’t know if that means you can video chat with 100 people. That seems like too many for one screen.
So for your next gathering, stick to what everyone already has on their smartphones.