Facebook is launching a number of new products to expand its video chat capabilities. The company today announced Messenger Rooms, a tool for launching virtual hangouts of up to 50 people that friends can visit at any time. It also doubles the capacity of WhatsApp video calls from four to eight, adds video calls to Facebook Dating, and adds new live streaming features for Facebook and Instagram.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the functions today in a live stream. In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg said that the new video features were developed in line with the company's shift to more private messaging tools.
"Video presence is not a new area for us," he said. "But it's an area that we want to go deeper into, and it fits the overall theme: we're shifting more resources within the company to focus on private communications and private social platforms, rather than just the traditionally broader ones." So that's a good mix: we build tools in Facebook and Instagram that people can use to find smaller groups of people, so they can then have closer connections and have private sessions with them. "
The global pandemics have forced hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors and rely on digital tools for almost all of their work, school, and free time. Meanwhile, more than 700 million people make calls every day via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
But the competition is also increasing. Zoom, which started as a simple tool for business video conferencing, grew from 10 million users in December to more than 300 million today. Houseparty, an app for virtual hangouts with friends that Facebook had previously cloned before the project was canceled last year, is now routinely at the top of the App Store's download charts. Last month, 50 million users were won.
The rapid growth of alternative social products has always been a concern with the well-known paranoid Facebook, which provides significant resources for monitoring emerging social products and then acquiring the companies behind them or copying their functions. While we are still in the early months of the COVID 19 pandemic, it is already clear that consumer behavior is changing to cope with it – and that Facebook's existing range of products has not met demand.
Of everything that was announced today, Messenger Rooms promises to be the most important. With this feature, which Facebook says will be available worldwide in the company's products in the coming weeks, up to 50 people can take part in a call. The room creator can decide whether it is open to everyone or locked to prevent uninvited guests from joining. You can start a room via Messenger and Facebook to get started. Rooms will come to Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal later. Guests can join a room regardless of whether they have a Facebook account.
In one room, you can play with Facebook's augmented reality filters or swap your real background for a virtual one. Some backgrounds offer 360-degree views of exotic locations, the company said. A new list of AR filters helps lighten dark rooms or improve the appearance of users.
Room calls are not encrypted all the time, but Facebook indicates that calls are not shown or listened to. A room creator can remove attendees at any time, and rooms where illegal behavior occurs can be reported to Facebook. (WhatsApp video calls are encrypted throughout, providing additional protection for users.)
Zoom saw a surge in malicious behavior as it became the world's standard meeting app, with racist, bigoted, and pornographic "zoom bombings" meetings around the world. According to Zuckerberg, the messenger rooms were equipped with strict data protection regulations. Due to the dependency of the function on connections to your real friends and family, it is less likely to be used to harass people. For groups where people don't know each other, moderators can throw people out of the rooms.
"Most of the time I've spent in the past few weeks expanding and preparing for shipping has been on privacy, security, integrity checks and how we can ensure this. Of the use cases that were problematic with Zoom, no things are replicated here, ”he said.
Facebook Live adds a feature called Live With that allows users to invite someone else to stream. The Donate button will be available in live streams, so users can collect money directly from their shipments in the countries where fundraisers are available.
With Instagram, users can post live streams on IGTV and Instagram stories after completing a stream. For the first time, Instagram Live broadcasts will be available on the desktop.
Users with the Facebook portal ad also have the option of placing pages and groups live, the company said. Portal users can already go live from their own profiles.
However, live streaming also has a dark side, and Facebook has been criticized after introducing live streaming when it was used to broadcast violence. The company removed 1.5 million copies of the Christchurch terrorist attack in the days following the video broadcast live on Facebook.
Rooms will now be available in Messenger in almost all countries where Facebook is available, the company said. It will be available in a handful of unspecified countries in the Facebook app today and will be launched worldwide in the coming weeks.
Read more from our interview with Zuckerberg, including his thoughts on zoom fatigue and holding management meetings in virtual reality.