Facebook is taking on Zoom in a bid for a larger share of the video conferencing market by launching a new group video chat tool called Messenger Rooms.
The service will launch “over the coming weeks,” Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a live stream Friday afternoon.
Video chats are “starting to be a fundamental building block of a private social platform with lots of different use cases,” he added.
Messenger Rooms will function very similarly to group video chat software Zooom — users can join regardless of whether or not they have an account with Facebook or any of its subsidiaries (Instagram and Whatsapp) by opening a public room or clicking a link.
Users can invite their friends to join private video chat rooms in Instagram and Whatsapp in addition to Facebook. There will also be a tray at the top of the Facebook desktop and mobile apps that shows which Messenger Rooms are online and available to join.
The video conferences will be hosted in Messenger, Zuckerberg said, but if users don’t have that app they can join via a computer or mobile browser.
Messenger Rooms are designed to be very easy to join, but they still are somewhat private, said Zuckerberg. “You can make a room open to all of your friends but the room will be shown to the subset of people you interact with in our services or you have shown interest in interacting with over time,” he said.
Facebook is ramping up its efforts to provide several forms of video communication as the world adjusts to an increasingly remote work schedule. Zuckerberg said during the live stream he anticipated “we will be dealing with this for a while” and added that Facebook believes its video tools can serve a variety of uses including business and enterprise communication as well as social calling.
“I think we’re going to start to see this theme of having shared video presence technology, but have the product experience dramatically by how its integrated,” Zuckerberg said of Facebook’s overall video agenda.
The social media giant also operates Portal, a tablet-like piece of hardware made exclusively for video chatting. Since the coronavirus outbreak began, “sales of portal devices have grown by more than (tenfold) and we’re working hard to make more of them,” Zuckerberg said.
Within Facebook’s Whatsapp texting and calling app, the number of calls has doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak began and in some areas have grown tenfold, Zuckerberg noted — and more than 700 million daily active users across the globe are flocking to the Messenger and Whatsapp platforms.
The Facebook events team is focused almost exclusively on aiding users on creating virtual events now that nearly all physical ones are canceled, and Zuckerberg said Instagram is playing a large role in that.
“We are also going to be bringing Instagram Live to desktop web, so you can watch Instagram Live on your computer,” Zuckerberg said, citing the fact that “we are actually using computers and bigger screens more” now that more people are working from home.