On August 15, friends and family members from all over the world gathered in a church and reception hall to celebrate the wedding of Karen Dowling and Raghav Krishnapriyan.
Naturally, because of the pandemic, the wedding was a little different than usual. In addition to a small, in-person ceremony and reception, in Menlo Park, California, the bride, groom, and guests from as far away as India partied together online. They were represented as tiny, pixelated, two-dimensional characters on a website called Gather, which combines the nostalgia of retro video games with the face-to-face of video chat.
Nothing can replace being together in person, Karen Krishnapriyan, née Dowling, conceded. Still, “These tools can help us make the most of it while we can’t be together,” she said.
Since the pandemic has squashed plans for face-to-face socializing, the Krishnapriyans are among the many people taking celebrations, classes, office work, and academic conferences to the internet to help them feel virtually connected while they’re physically far apart.
But while Zoom has stood out for months as a popular video chat platform, with millions of meetings conducted on it each day, it’s not right for every person or gathering. It lacks the spontaneity of walking up to someone at a party for a chat, for one, and it’s tricky to use with a big group of people, for another. And, for the most part, there isn’t a lot that differentiates the Zoom experience from that on Cisco’s Webex, Facebook’s Messenger Rooms, Google Meet and other video-chat apps.
For something a bit playful and flexible, a growing number of people, companies, and universities are turning to Gather, which rolled out