From their grass roots beginnings to the present day Facebook as a company and its products have always been about one thing ‘connecting people’. They have always maintained that, and their latest products such as ‘Portal’ show how the company is very much focussed on helping people to feel closer to one another even when they are miles apart.
For some time now they have been pressing hard on the heels of the likes of YouTube with their video tech and wanting to be at the forefront of video sharing. More recently, Facebook themselves stated that they had felt increasing demand for real-time video. Their other platform WhatsApp and Messenger between them are currently seeing more than 700 million accounts using the services to make calls every day. In March alone and in many countries around the world, Messenger and WhatsApp saw video calling more than double with video views on both Facebook Live and Instagram Live increasing significantly.
With the current climate it was only a matter of time before they released a product to take on the likes of heavy hitters Zoom and Hangouts.
Meet Facebook Messenger Rooms
The move couldn’t have come at a better time with the global COVID 19 pandemic forcing millions of people to rely on digital tools to work, do schooling or just stay in touch with friends and family as countries everywhere apply social distancing and lockdowns in an attempt to slow the spread of Coronavirus.
Facebooks current offerings were clearly not meeting the demand as its competitors such as Zoom saw huge growth rocketing from 10 million users towards the end of last year to over 300 million today and all of this despite concerns about its security. We even saw a 700 year old tradition when the British government introduced Zoom powered video to the hallowed halls of Parliament.
It is clear that behaviour around COVID 19 is changing rapidly and we have been seeing dramatic changes in some industries that we work with and this is being discussed in another blog post soon to be released from a colleague.
Mark Zuckerberg reported, “Video presence isn’t a new area for us,” he said. “But it’s an area that we want to go deeper in, and it fits the overall theme, which is that we’re shifting more resources in the company to focus on private communication and private social platforms, rather than just the traditional broader ones. So this is a good mix: we’re building tools into Facebook and Instagram that are helping people find smaller groups of people to then go have more intimate connections with, and be able to have private sessions with.”
Facebook are keen to make it clear that Messenger Rooms isn’t a separate app, rather that it is a feature that can be launched from its existing Facebook and Messenger, and more importantly in the battle for video calling supremacy is that you don’t require a Facebook account to be able to join a Messenger Rooms chat and with support for up to 50 participants this could be a game changer.
Another good selling point over the likes of the free Zoom account is that there is no time limit on the call unlike the 40 minute one with Zoom.
In its statement on the release of this and other changes to its products Facebook said you can use its new tool to “Host celebrations, gather a book club or just hang out on the couch with friends,” “You don’t need to call someone and hope it’s a good time or check everyone’s calendar first.” “You can start and share rooms on Facebook through News Feed, Groups and Events, so it’s easy for people to drop by. Soon we’ll add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, too”.
Creators of the Messenger Room can choose whether the room is open and available to anyone or locked in order to prevent any uninvited guests and just to those of their choosing. Facebook also say that while in a room you will be able to swap out actual backgrounds for virtual ones as well as utilise its AR filters. Some of the backgrounds will even offer 360 views of fabulous locations and there are new filters on the way to help with things like brightening rooms or enhancing users appearance.
One area where book has faced criticism before is on how secure the platform is or isn’t, Messenger Rooms are not going to be end to end encrypted (unless on WhatsApp where they are and so offer an extra layer of security) but Facebook have said they have put numerous security measures in place. Moderators on groups will have the ability to kick unwanted guests out of the rooms and there are features to report a room name or submit feedback about a room if it’s violating the Facebook Community Standards. There is a more in depth piece from Facebook on the privacy of Messenger Rooms here https://about.fb.com/news/2020/04/privacy-matters-messenger-rooms/
How to Use Facebook Messenger Rooms
Facebook Messenger Rooms is currently rolling out in certain countries before expanding globally, so here’s how to create a Room from your phone:
1. Open the Messenger app.
2. Tap the People tab at the bottom right of the screen.
3. Tap Create a Room, and select the people who you want to join.
3. To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups and Events.
You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.
Over the coming weeks Facebook has said it has plans to add ways to create Rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal as well, so we will try and bring you more on these developments as they happen as well as more on how to use Messenger Rooms as more becomes available.
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