Virtual Meetings have exploded in recent months with the Coronavirus outbreak forcing people to start working and socializing from home. Video-calling services have seen a sharp rise during the coronavirus pandemic with options like Zoom and its daily active users growing to 300 million in April.
Another popular option, the Houseparty, owned by Fortnite-maker Epic Games has been downloaded more than two million times as at the beginning of March and other apps, such as Microsoft Teams, offer premium features for free.
With the current trend and the need to meet the demands of teleconferencing, Facebook is jumping into video chat game with its product feature, Messenger Rooms, a new feature that will allow up to 50 people to take part in a video chat, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.
Facebook has had a long and notorious history of expanding its features to emulate major competitors, from first launching stories on Instagram in 2016 as a clone of Snapchat. Now Facebook wants more of the video market and is trying to take on the now popular video sharing platform, Zoom (ZM).
Previously, the messenger video calls were limited to eight people but with this new video feature ‘Messenger Rooms,’ users can currently host a meeting with up 50 people at once with no time limit on its messenger app, it will also be added to the company’s other applications- WhatsApp will see that the maximum number of people who can simultaneously join a video call will increase from four to eight.
This new feature will be available on beta versions of WhatsApp for both Android and iOS. For making a video call with up to eight people, your WhatsApp must be running version 2.20.133 on Android and version 18.104.22.168 on iOS. The other condition is, the other participants that you’re looking to video and voice call, must also have the same beta version of WhatsApp running on their devices.
What’s the Catch?
Although these Messenger Rooms won’t be completely private, WhatsApp video and voice calls with up to eight people, will be end-to-end encrypted so no one else can view or listen in on private conversations, not even Facebook. Basically, end-to-end encryption is one of the main Unique Selling Points (USP) of the new video feature. Facebook is working to bring the security protocol to Messenger and Instagram Direct, so users will potentially be able to cross-platform chat across all these services one day, it’s easier said than done.
Like house party, the messenger rooms will let people drop in and out of the group video chats while the “room” is open just the way people have the ability to bump into each other in the physical world. Another catch of the new video feature is that users can create a Messenger Room that will be able to keep their room private, block unwanted participants, and send invitations to people who are not on Facebook.
Facebook is working to prevent the reoccurring issues its competitor’s faced like the “Zoombombing problem,” which let uninvited guests drop into video calls to abuse participants or share pornography. The company is working with cryptographers to make the links for the Messenger Rooms difficult for hackers to guess. Although, publicly discoverable rooms will be listed at the top of the Facebook news feed and chats will not be end-to-end encrypted. Possibly, this would be one of the reasons why Facebook may successfully take on Zoom with its security and end-to-end encrypted tactics.
Other features of the new video feature include:
- The ability to add eight people to a WhatsApp video call – up from four.
- The return of “Live With”, which lets users host Facebook Live streams with another person, to bring guests or performers on to their show.
- The ability to watch Instagram live videos on desktop computers.
- Participants will be able to use augmented reality filters and change their background in real-time.