Facebook launches ‘Messenger Rooms’ as a Zoom and Group FaceTime alternative

Facebook is out today with a new product to connect multiple people via video chat and compete with popular offerings like Zoom, Group FaceTime, Skype, Houseparty, and more.

Detailed by TechCrunch, Facebook announced a number of messaging updates today with the biggest news being the ability to start a group video chat with Messengers Rooms feature.

Launching today on mobile and desktop, you can start a video chat Room that friends can discover via a new section above the News Feed or notifications Facebook will automatically send to your closest pals. You can also just invite specific friends, or share a link anyone can use to join your Room.

For now, the feature is quite limited compared to Zoom and even Group FaceTime. However, that will expand over time and true to its vision of merging messaging, Rooms will arrive for Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal in the future.

For now, up to 8 people can join, but that limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it a more legitimate alternative to Zoom for big happy hours and such. And more importantly, users will soon be able to create and join Rooms through Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal, plus join them from the web without an account, making this Facebook’s first truly interoperable product.

Look out for the pop-alert the next time you launch Facebook on your iPhone, iPad, or on the web to start a video chat with Messenger Rooms.

The Verge notes that Messenger Rooms are not encrypted like Group FaceTime calls or even WhatsApp video calls.

Room calls are not end-to-end encrypted, but Facebook says it does not view or listen to calls. The creator of a room can remove participants at any time, and rooms where illicit behavior is taking place can be reported to Facebook. (WhatsApp video calls are end-to-end encrypted, offering an extra layer of protection to users.)

TechCrunch summarized the other messaging updates from Facebook unveiled today:

  • WhatsApp expands group calls from four to eight max participants – Encompassing larger families and friend groups makes WhatsApp a more viable competitor to Zoom

  • Facebook Live With returns – It’s tough to be the center of attention for long periods, so being able to bring a guest on screen during Live calls keeps them interesting and low pressure
  • Donate button on live videos – This makes it much easier for musicians, activists, and normal people to raise money for causes during the coronavirus crisis
  • Live via audio only – With more musicians bringing their tours to Facebook Live, now you can listen while still going about your day when you can’t watch too or want to conserve data, and you can use a toll-free number to dial in to some Pages’ videos
  • Instagram Live on web – You can now watch Live videos and comment from desktop so you can multi-task during longer streams

  • Live on IGTV – Long live videos won’t have to disappear since they can now be saved to IGTV, encouraging higher quality Instagram Lives meant to last
  • Portal Live – You’ll now be able to go Live to Pages and Groups from Portal devices so you can move around while streaming

  • Facebook Dating Video Chat – Rather than going on a date where you have no chemistry, you’ll be able to video chat with matches on Facebook Dating to get a feel for someone first.

Images via TechCrunch

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