Facebook is rolling out new feature competitor to Zoom, called Messenger Rooms, allows anyone with a Facebook account to create a video meeting and invite their friends to join, even if those people are not Facebook users, as millions of people remain confined to their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.The Messenger Rooms service lets up to 50 users participate in a video chat at once, a feature similar to Zoom and Houseparty, two apps that have exploded in popularity over the last few months. Facebook also announced that is it doubling the capacity of video calls on WhatsApp from four to eight participants and incorporating video calls into Facebook Dating.
The tech giant is not the only company to enter the video conferencing arena after the strong growth of Zoom, which reported 200 million daily users in March compared to 10 million in December.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed announcement on Friday that the ability to connect over live video has “emerged as especially important during this pandemic.” Beyond video conferencing for work, he said, “there are even more social uses of this, just for people to stay connected.”
If your friends or communities create rooms that are open to you, you’ll see them on Facebook so you can find things to do and people to hang out with. When you’re invited to a room, you can join from your phone or computer — no need to download anything to get started. If you have the Messenger app, you can play with AR effects like bunny ears, and new AI-powered features like immersive 360 backgrounds and mood lighting.
When you create a room, you choose who can see and join it. You can remove people from the call and lock a room if you don’t want anyone else to enter. Read more about the controls you have and how we built Rooms with privacy and security in mind.
Facebook is going to make Messenger Rooms available to users globally over the forthcoming weeks, here are some of the top features we are aware of:
- Join from computer or phone, no download required
- No meeting limits
- New AI powered augmented reality (AR) effects
- 360-degree backgrounds
- 14 new camera filters
- Room creators must be present in order for the call to begin
- Creators can remove guests at any time
Users can also report a room for violating Facebook’s rules.
The social network is likely to face skepticism over how it treats users’ personal data, given its patchy track record on privacy. Facebook said it does not listen to or watch video and audio calls, but it will collect data from rooms “to provide the service and improve the product experience.” It said it will not run ads in rooms, and audio and video won’t be used for ad targeting.
People without Facebook accounts can join meetings from their Web browsers. Facebook said it will collect some information on them, including what device and browser they are using, and ask them to share their names to identify themselves in meetings.
Facebook will roll out Messenger Rooms worldwide over the next few weeks.