Facebook introduces new feature called ‘Rooms’ – a 50-person video chat experience to take on Zoom

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, majority of the world has gone into some sort of lockdown or self-isolation with millions turning to video chat platforms to stay connected and maintain as much of a normal social life as possible. From catching up with friends and family, to business meetings, fitness classes, cyber-sex, virtual concerts and even funerals, these platforms are proving to be invaluable right now.

According to a report on Business Insider, Zoom – once a firmly corporate-focused video-chat service, it has skyrocketed from 10 million daily users to 300 million in a matter of months under the pandemic with users from all walks of life now making use of the platform to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues.

As Zoom’s popularity rises, the Chinese founded and owned company has also faced backlash over its flimsy security and recent data breaches making the platform rather risky to use. Companies across the board including Google banned the use of Zoom by its employees for any work-related communication.

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And just this week, Facebook announced it would be adding a new feature called Messanger Rooms – which will allow Facebook users (and users without accounts) to join video chatrooms with up to 50 people at a time.

The basic idea with Messenger Rooms is you should be able to create a room for any activity or any event you want to hold. You should be able to send them a link, and then they should be able to drop by and hang out with you via video presence.” – Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg

Rooms will allow members to create public or private video chatrooms to interact with friends and even strangers and like Zoom, Rooms will offer virtual backgrounds and augmented reality filters. Initially, users will be able to create a chat room through the core Facebook app – but in time they’ll spread throughout all of Facebook’s services, to Instagram direct messages, WhatsApp, and its Portal device.

I wanted to share a summary of the new product updates I just discussed on the livestream to help us all feel connected with the people we care about, even while we can't be together in person. Today's updates focused on video presence and we're releasing new experiences across three categories: video calling, video rooms, and live video.More than 700 million daily actives use WhatsApp and Messenger for calling. In many countries, calling has doubled since the Covid-19 outbreak began. To help you stay connected with your whole family and groups of friends, we're doubling the number of people who can participate in a group video call from 4 to 8 on WhatsApp. We're also launching AI-powered effects like 360 virtual backgrounds on Messenger, virtual dates on Facebook Dating, and expanding Messenger Kids to more than 70 countries and territories.I'm also excited to announce Messenger Rooms — group video chat designed with social interactions in mind. You can start a room for any activity — whether you're hosting celebrations, game nights, book clubs, or just have some time to hang out — send people a link, and they can drop in and hang out with you even if they're not on Facebook. You'll be able to create rooms and invite people across WhatsApp, Instagram and Portal as well. You'll also be able to discover rooms your friends are in at the top of News Feed, and it's easy to drop by and say hi. You don't need to schedule time to hang out like other video conferencing tools. We're testing Rooms in a few countries now and plan to roll it out globally over the coming weeks.For live video, there are now more than 800 million daily actives engaging with livestreams across Facebook and Instagram for workout classes, concerts, faith services, and more. We're bringing Live With back to Facebook so you can add another person into your live video. We're also making it easier to raise money and donate money directly in Live. On Instagram, you can now watch live videos on desktop and we're also adding a feature to let you save your live videos to IGTV. You'll also be able to go live from Portal to Facebook Pages and Groups soon as well.I hope these new product updates will help bring people closer together and help us all feel more present with the people we care about during this period. I'm looking forward to getting Rooms and the rest of these features into all of your hands soon, and hearing what you all think!

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, 24 April 2020

The chatrooms will soon be displayed at the top of users’ Facebook news feeds right above ‘Stories.’ If a room’s privacy settings allow it, anyone will be able to join them via a link even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

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Facebook also announced it will be adding eight-person video calls to WhatsApp, as well as video-call functionality to Facebook Dating. New updates will also let users watch Instagram Live broadcasts from desktop for the first time and will also see the return of the “Live With” feature that allows users to co-livestream with others and which it previously discontinued.

The new feature will launch in a few unspecified countries this week and will roll out the feature to the rest of the world in the coming weeks. Read more on the latest tech news right here.

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Live sharing new product updates to help everyone feel more connected even while we're apart and discussing our response to Covid-19.

Live sharing some new product updates to help us all feel more connected while we're apart and discussing our response to Covid-19.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, 24 April 2020


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