Facebook is deploying a competitor for video calls on Zoom, aimed at groups of up to 50 people.The new feature, called “Messenger Rooms“, allows anyone with a Facebook account to create a video meeting and invite their friends to join, even if those people are not Facebook users.
Video conferencing has become a staple food for many people trapped at home during the coronavirus pandemic. This is how they follow work, school, family, friends and activities.
Zoom has become very popular, 300 million people now participate daily in meetings on its platform, the company announced on Wednesday.
However, the ease of use of Zoom – initially users only had to click a single link to join a meeting – made the service a target of abuse. In the Zoombombing attacks, unwanted intruders disrupted meetings with pornography and racist harassment. Zoom has since taken steps to improve security, including requiring participants to enter default passwords.
Facebook has the potential to reach a much wider audience. He says he has seen increasing use of his two messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp, with more than 700 million people making voice or video calls every day.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a live ad on Friday that the ability to connect via live video has “become particularly important during this pandemic.” Beyond videoconferencing for work, he said, “there are even more social uses of it, just to keep people connected.”
Messenger Rooms is strangely similar to Zoom and works the same way. Participants can join without downloading an application.
It also reflects elements of the popular Houseparty video app: Facebook users will see notifications at the top of their news feed about new “rooms” that their friends have created, so they can “switch” to their as it pleases.
Introducing Messenger Rooms, group video calls that you can start and share via @messenger @facebookapp and soon @instagram @whatsapp and @portalfacebook. We're testing Rooms in a few countries now and plan to roll it out globally in the coming weeks. pic.twitter.com/kQWb2nbPzY
— Facebook (@Facebook) April 24, 2020
“I really enjoyed testing this,” said Zuckerberg. He described the fall into the rooms with his friends as “this neat, chance and spontaneous interaction”.
The company said Messenger Rooms would have default settings to protect meetings from intruders. The people who create the rooms can control who is allowed to join. They can open a room to anyone they are friends on Facebook with, or invite specific people.
Hosts can also link to invite people who are not on Facebook. These links are less secure because recipients could share them with others, who could then join the rooms. Facebook will not need passwords to join. The platform says it reduces the potential for abuse by allowing hosts to “lock” rooms so that no new participants can join. And if a host kidnaps someone, the room locks automatically.
Users can also report a room for breaking Facebook rules.
The social network is likely to face scepticism about how it treats users’ personal data, given its uneven history of privacy. Facebook said it doesn’t listen to or watch video and audio calls, but it will collect data in the rooms “to provide service and improve the product experience.” He said he will not run room ads and that audio and video will not be used for targeting ads.
People without a Facebook account can join meetings from their web browser. Facebook said it would collect information about them, including the device and browser they use, and ask them to share their names to identify themselves at meetings.
Facebook will roll out Messenger Rooms worldwide in the coming weeks.
How to create a Facebook Messenger room
Once available in your area, here’s how to create a room from your phone:
1. Open the Messenger application.
2. Tap the Contacts tab at the bottom right of the screen.
3. Tap Create room and select the people you want to join.
3. To share a room with people who do not have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your newsfeed, groups and events.
You can join a room from your phone or computer – no need to download anything, according to Facebook.
Facebook is also planning to add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal. Features will include 14 editable camera filters and backgrounds