Facebook announced a new feature for video calls called Messenger Rooms. This allows users to launch a call from Messenger or Facebook and invite up to 50 people to join for an unlimited time, even those without a Facebook account. Soon users will be able to create rooms from its other properties WhatsApp, Instagram and Portal, too.
The new option follows increased demand for video calling since the coronavirus outbreak. Facebook said more than 700 million WhatsApp and Messenger users are participating in calls every day, and in many countries video calling more than doubled in the past month.
In Facebook’s announcement they noted that “spending time with each other should be spontaneous, not strained. So to help people feel like they’re together, even when they are — or have to be — physically apart, we’re announcing features across our products that make video chat and live video easier and more natural.
Users don’t need to schedule calls or call someone first, but can launch a room simply on Facebook through News Feed, Groups and Events. The service is available from a computer or mobile device, and, with the Messenger app, users can add AR effects and AI-powered features such as 360 backgrounds and mood lighting. Facebook notes that Messenger Rooms doesn’t record or listen to calls and that the person who creates the room controls who is able to join, who sees the room, and whether the room is locked or unlocked to new guests. The room creator must be present in order for the call to begin and can remove guests at any time, and room names and rooms themselves can be reported if they violate Facebook’s Community Standards.
The service started at the end of April in some countries and will be launched worldwide in the coming weeks (including the U.S.). Users can start and share rooms via Facebook through the News Feed, Groups, and Events sections. On Facebook, people will see rooms created by friends or communities that are open to them, and when they’re invited to a room, they’ll be able to join from their phone or computer without having to download anything.
Facebook also confirmed that it’s planning to expand the number of people allowed on WhatsApp group calls to eight. In addition it’s adding new features to Facebook Live, which has seen a significant increase in views in the past month. These include adding guest presenters, audio-only events and streaming game play live from its new Facebook Gaming app.