As a part of its effort to address the social paradigms emerging from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Facebook announced launching Messenger Rooms, and new features heading to Messenger, Portal, Facebook Live, Instagram, and Facebook Dating that aim to make it easier to connect with close friends, followers, and significant others.
‘’Between WhatsApp and Messenger, more than 700 million accounts participate in calls every day. In many countries, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled, and views of Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos increased significantly in March. But there’s more to do to make real-time feel real.’’ the company said in a blogpost.
Messenger Rooms is basically a platform to create group video calls where the host can invite 8 people per room, and it will gradually grow to 50 joining a room, and carry out a conversation with no time limit.
The account-free nature of Messenger Rooms seems to be a direct response to Zoom. Earlier, the platform had reported that its number of users had skyrocketed because of the large scale adoption of video conference services during lockdowns. Currently, the service has more than 300 million daily users after only having 10 million in December. Following facebook’s reveal, CNBC added that zoom shares fell 3%.
Other video chat platforms like Skype have followed in Zoom’s footsteps, dropping account sign-up requirements and expanding the number of supported users.
Now in some countries, and in the rest of the world in the coming weeks (including the U.S.), users can start and share rooms via Facebook through the News Feed, Groups, and Events sections.
Messenger Rooms work a little bit like Houseparty, with active conferences being shown on a user’ feed, and unlocked ones bringing in the ability of simply being joined in by the user at a touch of a button.
While Messenger Rooms will be limited to Facebook for now, in the future it will be integrated with Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal, according to Facebook VP of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky.
Apart from this, Facebook has also introduced new AI-powered effects in Messenger to add to the app’s existing augmented reality filters. These include 360-degree backgrounds like beaches, 14 camera filters and camping-themed stickers and backdrops.
The Verge notes that Messenger Rooms are not encrypted like Group FaceTime calls or even WhatsApp video calls.
Room calls are not end-to-end encrypted, but Facebook says it does not view or listen to calls. The creator of a room can remove participants at any time, and rooms where illicit behavior is taking place can be reported to Facebook. (WhatsApp video calls are end-to-end encrypted, offering an extra layer of protection to users.)
TechCrunch summarized the other messaging updates from Facebook unveiled Friday:
- WhatsApp expands group calls from four to eight max participants – Encompassing larger families and friend groups makes WhatsApp a more viable competitor to Zoom
- Facebook Live With returns – It’s tough to be the center of attention for long periods, so being able to bring a guest on screen during Live calls keeps them interesting and low pressure
- Donate button on live videos – This makes it much easier for musicians, activists, and normal people to raise money for causes during the coronavirus crisis
- Live via audio only – With more musicians bringing their tours to Facebook Live, now you can listen while still going about your day when you can’t watch too or want to conserve data, and you can use a toll-free number to dial in to some Pages’ videos
- Instagram Live on web – You can now watch Live videos and comment from desktop so you can multi-task during longer streams
- Live on IGTV – Long live videos won’t have to disappear since they can now be saved to IGTV, encouraging higher quality Instagram Lives meant to last
- Portal Live – You’ll now be able to go Live to Pages and Groups from Portal devices so you can move around while streaming
- Facebook Dating Video Chat – Rather than going on a date where you have no chemistry, you’ll be able to video chat with matches on Facebook Dating to get a feel for someone first.
- Facebook also announced Messenger Kids global expansion and new features. Messenger Kids helps kids stay in touch with friends and family in a fun, parentally-supervised environment. They started expanding the free video calling and messaging app to more than 70 countries and are adding new options to help parents connect kids with their friends.