Facebook has entered, well reentered, into the arena to take on Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meets and other video meeting and conferencing platforms. Video calling has blitzed during the Coronavirus pandemic, and there has been a demand for Facebook to add more robust features to their Messenger app.
Rolling out in the next few weeks, the current guise of Messenger ‘Rooms’ comes when millions of people want an easier way to communicate without face to face contact, and allows people and large groups to host shared video and text conversations.
On rollout, Rooms can accommodate up to 50 people for an unlimited amount of time.
‘Rooms’ had been in development for a while and in fact launched in Canada and here (Australia) about four years ago as part of a pilot project for topic-centric meeting spaces - but back then didn’t support video streaming. It’s no real surprise that the Facebook team have decided to launch when Zoom (arguably the strongest platform in the game) is meeting demand with rapid growth during the Covid-19 crisis.
No Account Required
The key difference for Rooms is with an app generated invite link anyone can join, even if they aren’t members of Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp.
The Room is set up from an activity or event and relevant people are invited by the creator. While other platforms like Skype and Zoom have dropped account sign-ins and are now supporting an increased number of users, you still have to download the applications. Messenger Rooms only requirement is the Rooms link and a video camera enabled device.
There is no scheduling required; the default start time is when the room is created. However if the room is set to activate at a later time, invitees are reminded a few moments before the ‘Room’ is open. They are free to drop in and out whenever they want by app or portal.
If you are invited to a room, you will either see it in a tray at the top of your Facebook Newsfeed, be invited through your Instagram or WhatsApp account, or in the event that you hold no social media account, a link can be received via sms or email.
Privacy & Security
Facebook’s policy and other information available state that they don’t listen, watch or record the audio and video calls of members or guests.
The person that creates or opens must be in the Room for the call to start, and is in charge; of who gets invited, who sees the room and who gets kicked out. The creator also has the ability to enable the Room to be locked or unlocked to new guests.
Room names and activity can be reported if they aren’t in line with the portals Community Standards.
More To Come
In the video for CNET, Zuckerberg states that they have tried to learn through the issues of other conference tools. Maybe that’s why they have taken their time; to get this right, like they do so many other aspects of online social interaction.
Facebook are also planning to add Messenger Rooms to their other messenger services; Instagram Direct, Portal and WhatsApp. They are bringing back Live With, and enhancing it, and are improving their Facebook Online (Only) Events.
With Zuckerberg and his team on the move, It’s clear that video meetings, calls and conferencing will only get stronger and more prevalent, even when the Covid-19 crisis is over.