How Squad is making voice and video hang outs a lot more fun

Say goodbye to boring calls — shared activities & self-expression lets you do more than just talk when hanging out on Squad

Esther Crawford
4 min readOct 23, 2020

Two years ago when I started sharing what we were working on many people seemed skeptical that the future of hanging out with friends and strangers would be in voice and video chatrooms.

I’d get asked, “Do people really want to co-watch videos, play games and shop together while FaceTiming?”

Then the pandemic hit and everyone suddenly understood the need for building more meaningful shared experiences because the current tools just aren’t good enough. The best video services are meant for meetings, not for chilling.

Our team of 8 has worked to consistently dream up and deliver new functionality to help facilitate magical moments on Squad since early 2019. We’ve welcomed millions of best friends, long distance relationships and families in so they can stay connected with each other — especially in a world of social distancing. We started on iOS but then added beta versions for Android and desktop web.

Squad’s user growth since January 2019

The way we build meaningful relationships in the real world is through talking and doing things together, so that’s what Squad facilitates virtually. It’s our way of making a tangible dent in the loneliness epidemic.

Most people who use Squad are between 13–20 years old, and it really matters that they can “sit” together to watch their favorite YouTubers or saved TikToks — or be able to show each other who slid in their DMs this week — or browse IG fashionistas and shop together.

While they have to be on Zoom for school; afterward they want to be playing Among Us and hanging out on Squad.

Creating magical moments through shared activities

Everyone feels the pain of staring at profile pictures and video boxes of faces all day, for work and school and socializing.

In the spirit of making the experience way more fun and a whole lot less stiff we’ve made a bunch of changes in the past 6 months to how you can interact and given more control over the room you’re in.

A few of the many new features:

  • Various video shapes, movable tiles and backgrounds allow people to break free from the grid!
  • Room controls and moderation tools for large rooms
  • Verified profiles
  • Group functionality for creators who want to grow & manage live community spaces (creator squads are currently in beta)
Start a voice or video room with up to 9 speakers — an audience of any size can listen in & react

Our partnership with Snap and Camera Kit

As mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, we’re a launch partner for Snap’s Camera Kit (a new SDK that allows external developers to include Snap’s AR Lenses into their own apps).

Ben Schwerin announcing Camera Kit at the Snap Partner Summit, June 2020 (featuring Squad)

“Camera Kit is the culmination of nine years of innovation and investment in the Snap camera, and Squad is among the first of our partners to integrate this technology into their platform,” said Alston Cheek, Director, Platform Partnerships at Snap Inc. “We’re excited to see how Augmented Reality empowers the Squad community to have fun and express themselves with friends.”

We’ve designed our first batch of lenses that now appear in our app and on Snapchat.

Snap’s Camera Kit platform gives our team and community a suite of tools for bringing AR experiences to life. This partnership unlocks a new mode for creating, sharing, and expressing individuality while hanging out and watching videos together.

Users can throw lenses on their friends and we have paired some lenses and backgrounds together to bring everyone in the room into the same vibe.

Camera Kit’s AR technology inside of Squad

Building the future of active conversations

We’ve consistently been first to launch all kinds of things — from using ReplayKit 2 for social screen sharing to GIF backgrounds in rooms to cowatching TikToks with friends… and we’re just getting started!

We focused first on the cowatching vertical because we saw it was a hard problem that hadn’t been solved and it was a behavior that people were used to doing together in person.

The internet is full of amazing content and Squad makes it easier to connect over it — a digital equivalent of hanging out in your living room or bedroom with friends.

I’m passionate about building a product that deepens connections and helps to create more belonging in the world. Thanks for being along for the ride — I’m so excited to share more of what we’re building soon! 😃

👉 Follow me on Twitter or Squad to stay in touch.



Esther Crawford

Sleeping in. Ex-Product at Twitter. Life story: “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Optimist. Technologist. Wearer of many hats.