On Friday 24th April, Facebook shared a blog announcing a whole host of new video-calling features to WhatsApp, Messenger and their own app. Possibly the most exciting of these was ‘Messenger Rooms’ – which will allow users to start video chats that can be joined by up to 50 people with no time limit.

In the post, Facebook mentioned how the demand for video-calling on their apps has increased massively since the Coronavirus lockdown started.  They said that they’ve seen double the amount of video calls being made through their apps compared to this time last year, as “more than 700 million accounts participate in calls every day”.

But they’re not alone. Zoom reported 300 million daily users in April as many businesses switched to working remotely, and Houseparty (owned by the same company that made Fortnite) was downloaded over two million times at the beginning of March.

Like Houseparty, Messenger Rooms will let people drop in and out of a ‘room’ for the video call. There will also be the option to block unwanted chat guests from entering and users that you’ve already blocked won’t be able to join your room or invite you to theirs.

Facebook Messenger Rooms - Desktop

 

When creating the Room, the user will be able to choose whether to make it public or private. Public rooms will be visible at the top of the Facebook news feed. For private rooms, users will be able to invite guests – whether they’re already on Facebook or not – by sharing a link.

Facebook said that they “worked closely with cryptographers” to make room links hard to guess in a bid to prevent ‘zoombombing’ – where unwanted guests like hackers or trolls try to intrude on video calls. For extra security, room creators can also remove participants if needed and rooms can be locked or uncalled at any point during the call.

In the room, users will be able to switch on fun extras like 360 backgrounds, mood lighting and augmented-reality filters.

Rooms will initially only be available through the Facebook and Messenger apps, but the company plan to add the feature to Instagram, WhatsApp and Portal devices ‘soon’.

Other features recently added to the Facebook family of apps include:

  • An increase to the amount of people you can add to a WhatsApp video call – it’s now eight when it used to be four
  • The return of Facebook ‘Live With’ so you can host live streams with another person or bring a guest in to one
  • Instagram Live and Direct Messaging on Desktop
  • Facebook Gaming – allowing users to live-stream video game playthroughs and monetise them

These features were released sooner than expected due to the Coronavirus lockdown. They launched for some UK users on Friday, but the updates are expected to take a few weeks to reach all Facebook users.

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