Bonfire, Facebook’s group video chat app, has sprung up on the Danish iOS App Store, suggesting the social media giant is slowly rolling it out to customers.
We first learned about Bonfire in July of this year. Essentially, it borrows several features from current teen-fave (and Meerkat successor) Houseparty, allowing you to hold video chats with several participants simultaneously.
Our head of social, Matt Navarra, was able to obtain the app with “a lot of fiddling around” on the Danish App Store (if you’re curious, here’s how). Here’s some footage he took of the onboarding process.
From what we can tell, Bonfire lets users adorn themselves with several Snapchat-style effects, as well as share pictures from the chats through Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.
He was also able to invite other TNW team members to chat on the app. Those he invited received notifications, both within Messenger and their Facebook profiles; but since nobody had access to the Danish app store, they were unable to participate.
According to Adam Blacker of app analytics firm Apptopia, Bonfire is currently only available in Denmark, and has been downloaded roughly 2,000 times. He explained that Denmark “typically has good user retention,” which he says makes it an ideal test market for new products.”
Bonfire bears more than a passing resemblance to other group chat services, like the since-deceased Blab.im, as well as its spiritual successor, WeKiki. Ultimately though, this effort from Facebook poses serious trouble for Houseparty, and has the potential to rob it of any momentum it’s currently enjoying.
You can’t argue that it makes sense for Facebook though. Bonfire encapsulates two trends — the push towards video, and the push towards more private social experiences — in one application. And given that it’s unabashedly aimed at the teen market, perhaps this will act as a gateway drug to Facebook proper, or at least work to keep teenagers within the Facebook social ecosystem.
We reached out to Facebook who, in a statement, said:
“At Facebook Inc we continue to build and test new products and services. We already have many great experiences for people to video chat in groups, or as individuals, across the family of apps, including Messenger. We are interested in how everyone uses technology and how we can build great experiences for them. We’re running a very small test in Denmark of an app we call Bonfire. We have nothing further to share at this time.”
UPDATE – 13:53 GMT: This piece has been updated with comment from app analytics firm Apptopia.
UPDATE – 16:02 GMT: This piece was updated with comment from a Facebook spokesperson.