[Update: Rolling Out] Facebook Messenger “Rooms” are video chats for up to 50 people
I’m sure I don’t have to mention again why most of us are forced to stay home: we all know there’s a pandemic out there and that we need to stay safe, follow the World Health Organization’s advice, and practice social distancing at all times to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But practicing social distancing does not mean that we have to be cut off from our friends and acquaintances. Most in-person meetings and classes have been replaced by video chats of multiple people at the same time. The most common choice for that became Zoom in the past few weeks, but the app has also been plagued by some privacy and security issues these days.
Demand for a competitor is, thus, on the rise. Discord, for one, has started to offer video calling services, but Facebook is bringing up the bar with its new “Rooms” service.
Facebook Messenger Rooms brings a twist to the existing video calling service, and it’s the fact that it’s geared specifically towards the times we’re living and the measures these times require. Rooms’ main selling point is the number of people that can join to the same “room” at the same time: the service offers video calling for up to 50 people. Zoom, for one, allows up to 100 people to connect to a single session, so it still has an advantage going for it. 50 people, however, should be enough for most virtual meetings.
Facebook is also putting privacy as a focus on Messenger Rooms, as they also published a separate blog post detailing the privacy aspects of the service, in an attempt to pitch themselves forward as a more secure alternative to Zoom which is currently in the public eye for several security-related controversies. Facebook themselves doesn’t really have a good reputation in the privacy department either, so that should also help clear up some doubts.
It’s one of many different new features that Facebook is offering these days to make stay-at-home orders a bit less boring: WhatsApp, for one, is also extending their video chatting capabilities to allow up to 8 people to connect to a single call, up from 4.
Facebook says that its Rooms service is now available in a few countries, with support for more countries on the way soon.
Update: Rolling Out
Facebook Messenger Rooms are now available to everyone in the US and Canada. This is Facebook’s attempt to make Messenger video calling much more about groups and social interaction. Mark Zuckerberg talked about how most of the popular group calling services are geared toward work and productivity. They are positioning Rooms and a more casual and social option. Rooms have no time limits and can host up to 50 people. You can create private rooms or post a room to your News Feed for anyone to drop by. Rooms will be available globally next week.