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Facebook just released its Houseparty killer to win back the teens

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Facebook has unleashed an attack on yet another teen app. The social networking giant is testing Bonfire, a group video chat app that is quite similar to Houseparty, The Next Web reported Wednesday.

Bonfire has the tagline “Your friends, your fire” and allows users to chat with multiple Facebook friends at once via live video. Again, similar to Houseparty, each person’s live feed divides up a part of the smartphone screen. 

While the app is only available to download from the Danish iOS App Store, we were able to test it out via an invite from The Next Web‘s Matt Navarra. We didn’t have the app on our phone, but we were able to experience some of the functionalities within Facebook’s Messenger app.  

The Next Web's Matt Navarra invited us through Facebook Messenger.

The Next Web’s Matt Navarra invited us through Facebook Messenger.

Image: bonfire screenshot

We couldn't actually download the app.

We couldn’t actually download the app.

Image: bonfire screenshot

Not everything is the same, of course. While Bonfire’s logo features a literal bonfire, Houseparty’s logo is a solo cup. Houseparty also offers fun effects like “passing notes.” Houseparty lets users chat with up to 8 people at once, but it’s unclear what the limits are with Bonfire. 

Nevertheless, the time has come for Facebook to try its own hand at a separate app dedicated to group video chats. 

There have been several reports of Facebook working on a Houseparty-like app over the last year. Facebook circulated a survey in March that asked users about their experience using Houseparty, Recode reported, and the company also had “several talks” with the Houseparty team. In July, Bonfire was demonstrated for employees and was planned to have a fall release, The Verge reported

Bonfire lets you turn off your camera and just communicate via audio.

Bonfire lets you turn off your camera and just communicate via audio.

Image: bonfire screenshot

Users can stay live on Bonfire and then move to Messenger.

Users can stay live on Bonfire and then move to Messenger.

Image: bonfire screenshot

Why go after Houseparty? For one reason, Facebook tracked the success of the app via its “‘early bird’ warning system that identifies potential threats,” The Wall Street Journal reported in August. Facebook is able to evaluate how much traction apps gain via Facebook sign-in and other third-party data. 

Only about a year into launch, Houseparty has attracted a large and attentive audience. Houseparty has 20 million users who together have participated in more than 500 million video calls. Especially important to Facebook is the fact that 60 percent of these users are under the age of 24, and they spend an average of 51 minutes a day chatting in the app. 

Facebook has been desperately trying to win back the attention of teens. An August report from eMarketer predicted Facebook usage by 12-to-17-year-olds will decline this year, which would be the first time a drop in Facebook usage has been estimated for any age group ever. The report also predicted audiences under 25 are using Facebook less. 

Bonfire is currently only available in Denmark, according to app analytics firm Apptopia cited by The Next Web, and has been downloaded about 2,000 times. 

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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