The Marco Polo app is a widely popular video messaging app among teens and millennials alike. It works like a walkie talkie – but with video. The app encourages users to communicate with their friends directly through the app as opposed to text messaging or phone calls.
As far as we can tell, Marco Polo seems to have a certain Snapchat vibe to it, though the messages/videos do not appear. We tried the app for you and this is what we now know: users tap on a friend’s face to start a video conversation, that’s then sent over to the other friend, who can respond right away or open it at their leisure. You can keep sending things back and forth, and so on, and so forth until you are out of things to say.
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The makers of Marco Polo call the app a “video walkie-talkie.” And though that may be deceptive, because you don’t actually talk in real time, it does feel as though you are video chatting IRT. We found that this way of video-chatting takes much of the stress, obligation, and awkwardness out of traditional video chatting. The app has many fun features, including filters that can change the sound of your voice. You can also draw and write on videos to personalize them. Video conversations are stored in your conversations and users in a group can rewatch videos sent in the past—both a blessing and a curse, if you ask me. Unlike a lot of other video apps, there is no text chat or direct message (DM) option, which makes the app uniquely specific. It doesn’t seem like its creators are trying to come up with the new Snapchat, but rather limit the function of the app to what it does best: emulate video-chatting without actually having to do it in real time.
Now, a question that often comes up whenever we’re faced with a new communication app, is it safe? Marco Polo allows users to communicate with friends by inputting their contact information, so in this sense, it’s no less safe than texting or using email. But as with all media and apps, there is always the possibility that this feature could be abused by strangers.
There are whispers in the venture community and on some reddit threads about the app that are growing increasingly louder. Investors are suddenly very interested in Marco Polo, perhaps because it is popular with youth culture.
In short, Marco Polo is fun—just think of its name: you leave a video message to your friends and they do the same. If you’re tired of Facetime-ing 24/7, the app is a good alternative to maintaining video interactions without the pressure of actually having to be on the phone.