Facebook takes on Zoom with new video calling features

Facebook is known to always expanding its features to take on different competitors. It is now taking on the video calling meeting app, Zoom.

Facebook is releasing a new feature that lets you video chat with multiple people through Messenger even if you don’t have a social media account.

The feature called Messenger Rooms will allow anyone who has 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 for many people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s how they keep up with work, school, family, friends and activities.

Zoom which happens to be one of the most popular video conferencing app, with 300 million people now participating in meetings on its platform initially, just needed to click a single link to join a meeting.

This made the service a target for abuse. In “Zoombombing” attacks, unwanted intruders have disrupted meetings with pornography and racist harassment. Zoom has since taken steps to improve security, including requiring participants to enter passwords by default.

Facebook has the potential to reach a much broader audience. It says it has seen surging use of its 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 livestreamed announcement on Friday that the ability to connect over live video has “emerged as especially important during this pandemic.” Beyond video conferencing for work, he said, “there are even more social uses of this, just for people to stay connected.”

Messenger Rooms looks eerily similar to Zoom and functions in much the same way. Participants can join without downloading an app. It also mirrors elements of the popular video app Houseparty: Facebook users will see notifications at the top of their news feed about new “rooms” their friends have created, so they can “drop in” as they want.

The company said Messenger Rooms will have default settings to protect meetings from intruders. People who create the rooms can control who is allowed to join. They can make a room open to anyone they are friends with on Facebook, or they can invite specific people.

Hosts can also create a link to invite people who are not on Facebook. Those links are less secure, as recipients could share them with others, who could then join rooms. Facebook will not require passwords to join. The platform says it is reducing the potential for abuse by allowing hosts to “lock” rooms so that no new participants can join. And if a host removes someone, the room automatically locks.

Users can also report a room for violating Facebook’s rules.

Rooms can currently be accessed through the Messenger app or the main Facebook platform, but will soon be added to the company’s other applications, including Instagram and WhatsApp. The service will be rolled out to some countries this week and expanded worldwide in the coming weeks.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is also planning to expand group calls so you can voice or video call up to eight people.

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