Welcome to Parlor, the app that everyone's accidentally downloading instead of Parler

Reid McCarter
·3 min read

Parler, the internet’s premier destination for consequence-free hate speech and coup-planning, isn’t doing so well right now. While there’s still plenty of room to share just about any deranged, evil thought that crosses your mind on Facebook and Twitter (as long as you’re not the President), Parler’s been removed from both the Apple and Google Play stores until it pours bleach on its servers and entirely reinvents its moderation policies. For now at least, Parler’s offline.

Nature abhors a vacuum, though, and Parlor, an app for talking to strangers online, has rushed to fill Parler’s place, gaining popularity based on the fact that it’s the top result showing up on digital storefronts now that the one spelled with an “e” is down.

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Parlor bills itself on the Google Play store as “the First and Only Social Talking Network,” has a 2.9 out of 5 review score, and touts features like “Millions Of Users,” “Celebrity Users,” “VIP Fan Clubs,” “New Topics,” and “Private Calls.” As Mashable notes, Parlor’s existed for 10 years and only had “40,000 downloads as of December 2020,” but is now the second most popular app on Apple and Android. The point of the app, as far as we can tell, is to talk to strangers randomly assigned to you on your phone until you’ve grown a social network big enough to, say, discuss your favorite TV shows or topple a government.

We checked it out to see what these “millions of users” (celebrities included!) might be up to and how the app’s designed. The first impression isn’t great. Parlor’s got big ads on the top and bottom of the screen and category tiles, like, most notably, one with a cartoon outline of Capitol Hill that reads, “Your Voice Matters.” There’s also “Vent,” a channel that exists for you to yell at strangers about whatever you’re angry about at the moment, and we’re getting a sense that Parlor developers have been working hard to take advantage of their big moment in the typo-shining sun.

The app seems a bit too junky to really capitalize on its accidental success, though. The overall vibe of the thing is Yahoo! chat room circa 2005. Categories like “Peace” are labeled with that all-religions co-exist bumper sticker image, a category called “Random” features wacky fonts and loudly colored letters, and there’s an “Under 21" label with a restricted area sign that gives off real “By Teens, For Teens” Web 1.0 impression. To make matters worse, all but one of the calls we tried to join timed out while searching for another user or as the result of a connection error. The one that did connect was an English child yelling “hello?” in the “Vent” channel, which we hung up on immediately. Though it may have achieved accidental success, Parlor with an “o” hardly seems like a worthy successor to its vanquished, similarly-spelled, diaper heap of a fellow app.

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