Facebook has announced that its group video chat app Bonfire, which it initially launched in response to the rising popularity of Houseparty, will be shut down later this month.
Facebook launched Bonfire to users in Denmark in September 2017, and at that time, Houseparty had seen a major rise, building momentum with its simple, group streaming process, which enabled users to “virtually hang out”.
Facebook later launched Bonfire in additional European markets, but it was never made available in North America – and now, never will be. Clearly, the app didn’t generate significant enough interest, but on top of that, Houseparty’s growth slowed (TechCrunch’s Josh Constine notes that Houseparty’s App Store rank declined from #75 a year ago to #327 now), and Facebook has now opted to incorporate the same group video chat functionality into Messenger and Instagram instead.
Given these developments, its little surprise that Facebook has decided to move on from its separate video chat app. Creating a new app means building a new network in a new space, which fails to tap into Facebook’s greatest competitive advantage. By incorporating the same into the apps where Facebook already has a captive audience, it’s able to maximize its scale, and squeeze smaller players out of the market.
Facebook has now largely learned this, stemming from the rise of Snapchat. Initially, Facebook tried to compete with Snapchat through new, dedicated apps along the same lines – apps like ‘Slingshot’ and ‘Poke’. Those apps failed, but then Facebook launched Instagram Stories and heaped the pressure back onto Snapchat through replication of its tools on its already popular platform. That approach has proven significantly more successful – in fact, it’s kind of surprising that Facebook ever bothered to launch Bonfire at all, given Instagram Stories was launched in 2016, a year before Bonfire was announced.
Whatever the logic, Bonfire, predictably, hasn’t caught on, and you can probably expect it to be the last of Facebook’s clone apps because of this. But you never know – maybe Facebook has an ulterior motive we’re not aware of, a different process which will see it develop new, standalone apps to slow the momentum of new players, in order to buy it time to develop similar technology on its main platforms.
But, in summary, Bonfire is gone. The app will disappear sometime this month.
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