On April 24, Facebook introduced Messenger Rooms, a video conferencing tool. With it expanded live streaming features, capitalising on a surge in demand for video chats during the coronavirus pandemic.
The video conferencing tool, Messenger Rooms, will enable as many as 50 people to participate in a call. It will display a tiled layout of participant videos – up to 16 on desktop and eight on mobile – resembling the design offered by competitor Zoom.
Facebook users will be able to share links enabling non-users to join Rooms via a web browser on both desktop and mobile, eliminating requirements to download an app or create an account as on other services.
In Messenger Rooms, There will be no time limits on the calls.
Elements of the product had been slated for release in 3Q and 4Q2020. But Facebook accelerated its plans after observing a spike in a group calling during the lockdowns, Facebook’s head of Messenger, Stan Chudnovsky told Reuters.
“Our video calls doubled, and when we’re looking at the group calls usage, that went up even higher,” said Chudnovsky. “So we figured out a way to build those things faster.”
Facebook said in its statement there were now more than 700 million accounts participating in calls on WhatsApp and Messenger every day.
Chudnovsky said Facebook’s free offering is focused squarely on the consumer market with Messenger Rooms and is not currently making overtures to businesses, the main source of revenue for most other video conferencing apps.
The company is simultaneously expanding its live-streaming offerings, such as an option to add a guest to a live video on the core Facebook app and the ability to save live videos on Instagram to the IGTV video-sharing app.
Its decision to build Rooms on Messenger’s infrastructure asserts the app’s preeminence as the company begins to realise chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to weave together its messaging services, offering a first glimpse at how that integration will be structured.
Messenger Rooms will be accessible across the social network’s sprawling array of online gathering spaces, enabling users to jump into group video meetings directly from News Feed, as well as in Groups and Events pages.
Facebook is also planning to add buttons within messaging service WhatsApp and the chat function of Instagram, although those users will be prompted to open Messenger to create Rooms, said Chudnovsky.
The company is simultaneously expanding group video calling within WhatsApp, which has more users than Messenger but is capping the number of participants there at eight.
Chudnovsky said Zuckerberg’s plan to extend end-to-end encryption across messaging services would also apply to Messenger Rooms. “We would like to have it all encrypted if possible,” he said.
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