Technology

To compete with Houseparty, Facebook launches drop-in video chat Rooms

Whatsapp and Instagram will have new features too

Image: Facebook/Screenshot
  • According to Facebook, Messenger Rooms is rolling out in some countries this week and will be expanded to the rest of the world in the coming weeks, including the US;
  • The company did not detail which countries are testing the novelty.

Facebook launched on Friday its Messenger Rooms, which, according to the company, “are joinable group video calls that make it easy to spend quality time with friends, loved ones, and people who share your interests”.

It’s possible to create a room right from your Messenger or Facebook account, and invite anyone, even those who don’t have a Facebook account. According to Facebook, Rooms will soon hold up to 50 people with no time limit. For now, up to 8 people can join a video call on Rooms.

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Analysts say that the launch is a Facebook attempting to compete with Houseparty, a spontaneous hangouts platform. “We already had a plan to do a bunch of stuff here [so people could] hang out on video any time they want, but we accelerated our plans,” Facebook’s head of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky told Josh Constine, from TechCrunch.

Facebook is rushing to meet a demand that skyrocketed with the COVID-19 pandemic: many-to-many video conferences. “Between Messenger and WhatsApp, more than 700 million accounts participate in voice and video calls every day, and the number of calls has more than doubled in many countries since the pandemic began. In some cases, the number of group video calls has gone up by more than 10 times,” says the company.

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According to Facebook, Messenger Rooms is rolling out in some English speaking countries this week and will be expanded to the rest of the world in the coming weeks.

Alongside with Rooms launch, Facebook also announced new features for Whatsapp and Instagram. According to the company, WhatsApp will group calls from four to eight max participants “soon”. And Instagram lives will be available on the web/desktop version of the app.