Facebook has launched what the company call Messenger Rooms which is their answer to the ever-growing new kids on the block – Zoom and Houseparty.
Messenger rooms is a tool for starting virtual hangouts with up to 50 people and allowing friends to drop in on you whenever they like.
Launching today on mobile and desktop in English speaking countries, you can start a video chat Room that friends can discover via a new section above the News Feed or notifications Facebook will automatically send to your closest pals. You can also just invite specific friends, or share a link anyone can use to join your Room.
For now, up to 8 people can join, but that limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it a more legitimate alternative to Zoom for big happy hours and such. And more importantly, users will soon be able to create and discover Rooms through Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal, plus join them from the web without an account, making this Facebook’s first truly interoperable product.
Choosing to create a separate and extremely prominent space for discovering Room above the News Feed reveals how seriously it’s taking this product. It could have marooned Rooms in a standalone app or made them just another News Feed post that’s timeliness would get lost in the algorithm. Instead, it was willing to push the feed almost entirely off the start screen beneath the composer, Rooms, and Stories. Clearly Facebook sees sharing, ephemeral content, and synchronous connection as more key to its future than static status updates.
“A lot of the time that I’ve spent on this over the last few weeks as we’ve been building this out and getting ready to ship has been on privacy, security, integrity reviews, and how do we make sure that a lot of the use cases that have been problematic around Zoom are not going to be things that are replicated here,” he said.
Facebook Live will add back a feature called Live With that enables users to invite another person to stream with them. The donate button will become available on live streams, allowing users to raise money directly from their broadcasts in the countries where fundraisers are available.
Instagram will begin allowing users to post live streams to IGTV as well as to Instagram stories after they finish a stream, and Instagram Live broadcasts will become available on the desktop for the first time.
Users with Facebook’s Portal display will also get the ability to go live to pages and groups, the company said. Portal users can already go live from their own profiles.