Facebook introduces Messenger Rooms, a video chat that allows up to 50 people to connect for an unlimited period of time, whether or not they have a Facebook account. Whatsapp video and voice calls to now accommodate 8 people instead of 4.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced in a live broadcast on Friday that Facebook will be rolling out new features including Messenger Rooms, a video chat that allows up to 50 people to connect for an unlimited period of time, whether or not they have a Facebook account.

Similar to Houseparty, an app that allows group video chats of up to eight people, Messenger Rooms allows you to create a room by clicking on a video icon in Facebook Messenger. You can invite people into the room by sharing the link, control who sees the room, and you can lock or unlock it. If a room is unlocked, anyone with the link can join and share it with others.

According to Mark during his interview with The Verge, “Video presence isn’t a new area for us, 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.”

“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.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social network platforms have become more important than ever in a bid to maintain proper social distancing so as to curb the spread of the virus while still keeping in touch with loved ones and also work colleagues in cases where office activities have been transferred to the home. As a result, video conferencing apps have seen a significant increase in the number of users on their platforms since the beginning of 2020. Zoom, in particular, rose to about 300 million daily meeting participants by March 2020 from 10 million in December 2019.

Although it is still quite early to tell, this new development from Facebook could potentially impede the growth of other products in the video chat category, particularly its perceived main competitor, Zoom. An immediate effect was Zoom’s shares closing at 6% lower on Friday after Facebook announced it was rolling out new video chatting features.

Facebook is currently the most used social networking platform with about 1.66 billion daily active users as of December 2019. This could discourage more people, especially the older generation, from exploring other video chat options due to familiarity with the Facebook platform and the new option to even invite nonusers to a Messenger room.

While Messenger room takes up to 50 people at once, however, Zoom can accommodate up to 100 people at a time on a video call and also has the option to increase the number of participants via a paid subscription plan. But, there is a 40-minute limit on Zoom for calls with more than three participants while the Messenger Room has none.

In spite of all of these, there is still the possibility that Zoom especially will not take any serious hit in this as it seems to provide a more professional ‘feel’ for business-related video calls when compared to the Facebook platform, and thus will still retain the majority of its users

Facebook also announced new features for its other apps including:

  1. Whatsapp video and voice calls will be updated to allow up to eight people at once on a call, an increase from the previous limit of four persons at a time.
  2. Instagram live videos will be made available on desktop and can be saved to IGTV for viewers to access later.
  3. Players are able to live-stream games on the Facebook Gaming app.
  4. Virtual dates on Facebook Dating.