Facebook's virtual Messenger Rooms allow up to 50 people to video chat simultaneously

Facebook's virtual Messenger Rooms allow up to 50 people to video chat simultaneously
Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, people are connecting with their friends and family through video chat apps such as FaceTime (iOS), Duo (Android and iOS), Houseparty (iOS and Android), and Zoom (Android and iOS). When Apple released iOS 12.1 in 2018, it updated FaceTime allowing 32 participants in a video chat at one time. Duo has been hiking the number of its simultaneous users to 12. Houseparty can handle eight participants at one time while Zoom's free tier can handle as many as 100 users at one time. 

Today, Facebook said that some of its properties have seen heavy increases in demand for communicating by video. In many countries, Messenger and WhatsApp video calling more than doubled and more people are watching live streams "broadcast" by Instagram and Facebook users. So today, Facebook introduced Messenger Rooms. You can create a room from Facebook or Messenger and invite up to 50 people to join you in a video chat with no time limit. And you can even invite people to join you even if they do not have a Facebook account.

Facebook wants you to host your virtual video chatfest using its new Messenger Rooms

Facebook says that it will soon allow users to create such rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal. If you're invited to "enter" a room,  you can join from your phone or computer right away without having to download anything. And those with the Messenger app can spruce up their appearance through the use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence. With the former, you can add things like bunny ears and with the latter, you can place yourself in selected locations using immersive 360-degree backgrounds.

Those who create a room get to kick people out and can also lock a room if they don't want any more people to join. In fact, the room creator gets to decide who can see the room and join it. And no one is stuck inside a room; anyone can leave whenever they feel like it. And yes, if you create a room you can block people you don't like from entering, but you won't be able to join their rooms. The new Messenger Rooms will be available in some countries this week and will be offered to the rest of the world in the upcoming months.

Facebook says, "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."

Until we are able to better get a grip on the coronavirus, video chats are the safest way to stay connected to friends and family that don't live with you. The free tier of Zoom can help 100 people "attend" a virtual wedding reception and virtual weddings. Last week, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order allowing people to get married in the state over video chat.

On its privacy page, Facebook notes that it doesn't watch your video calls (or listen to your audio calls for that matter). But it does collect data from Messenger Rooms whether you joined via the app or just walked into a room without having an account. The data collected is used to improve the experience of using the feature and Facebook says that it does not show ads in any of the Rooms and that video and audio from these Rooms are not used to "inform ads." If you "walk" into a room without having a Facebook account, information like the device and browser you're using is collected to, in the words of Facebook, "improve the Rooms product experience and to help keep Rooms safe and secure."

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