Video conferencing system Zoom has seen its user base explode over the past few months as millions of people stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19. So it’s not surprising to see rivals starting to copy some of Zoom’s most popular features.

Case in point — Facebook has launched a new group video calling feature called Messenger Rooms. When you set up a room you can invite up to 50 people to join the call… and they don’t even need a Facebook account. Just send a link to your guests and they can click to join the conversation.

It’s just one of several new features video features Facebook is rolling out.

First, a few more details about Messenger Rooms:

  • You can create a room from the Facebook or Facebook Messenger apps.
  • In the future you’ll be able to start one from Instagram, WhatsApp or Portal.
  • Rooms can be public or private (in which case you can only join if you have an invite).
  • You can use Facebook Messenger’s AR features to replace your background or apply other effects.
  • Messenger Rooms connections are not end-to-end encrypted.

Other new video features that Facebook is rolling out include:

  • Live With” is back in Facebook. It lets you invite other participants to join a Facebook Live stream (a feature that Facebook used to have, but which the company had removed… although a similar feature is available in Instagram).
  • Instgram users will be able to save their live streams and post them to IGTV and not just their self-destructing Instagram Stories.
  • WhatsApp group calls can now accommodate eight people (up from a previous limit of four).
  • Facebook Dating now supports video calls.

Rivals including Google and Microsoft have also been upping their video chat game at a time when video conferencing tools are more in-demand than other. There’s evidence that Google may also be preparing an invite link feature for Duo that will let users generate a link that guests can click on to join a group call.

Meanwhile, folks who are looking for an open source alternative that’s not tied to a huge tech company have been touting Jitsi Meet as an alternative (you can set it up on your own server if you don’t want to use Jitsi’s).

How have you been keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues during the pandemic?

via The VergeEngadget, and Mark Zuckerberg

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2 replies on “Facebook launches Messenger Rooms (Chat with up to 50 people, send links to non-FB users)”

  1. I got a link from my family and used this over the weekend. It works pretty well for folks who don’t have an FB account but have several friends and family who do and aren’t likely to learn other multi-user VC services/tools.

  2. I recently used this with my family. It works pretty well. I used the link since I don’t have an FB account (not because I’m anti-FB or anything but I just don’t feel I have anything regularly worth sharing). I’m going to keep using this with my friends and family who like using Facebook services.

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