Facebook ups video conferencing capabilities in response to zooming competition

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

With an increased demand for video conferencing, Facebook has added a range of new features for group video chats across its messaging apps.

Messenger Rooms will let people host video chats that can include up to 50 participants.

After launching for a selected number of users on Friday, it will take several weeks to be rolled out for all Facebook users. 

The social network has said that video-calling on Messenger had doubled since last year, mostly due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The video chat 'Rooms' can be created via Facebook or Messenger, and the company said it planned to add the feature to Instagram, WhatsApp, and its Portal video-calling devices "soon".

People creating a Room can choose to keep their room private, block unwanted participants and also send invitations to people who are not on Facebook.

Similar to rivals in this space, Zoom and Houseparty, participants will be able to use augmented reality filters and change their background in real-time.

At launch, the chats will not be end-to-end encrypted - a feature that is scheduled to be added sometime in the future. 

Zoom's daily active users grew to 300 million in April and Houseparty, owned by Fortnite-maker Epic Games, was downloaded more than two million times at the beginning of March.

The new Messenger Rooms services were tested in Argentina and Poland, and during testing, rooms could support 17 to 20 participants at a time. Facebook said that number would grow to 50 over the coming weeks.