Facebook handles Zoom with brand-new video calling functions

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Facebook Messenger has actually seen a rise in video calls because the coronavirus break out, Facebook states.


James Martin/CNET

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Facebook is launching a brand-new function that lets you video chat with several individuals through Messenger even if you do not have a social networks account, a relocation that might assist the business take on popular videoconferencing app Zoom.

The world’s biggest social media calls this brand-new tool Messenger Rooms, and it can accommodate as much as 50 individuals in a group video chat. You can welcome others who do not have a Facebook account by sharing a link to the video chat. The business prepares to include this function to other messaging services it owns, consisting of Instagram Direct and WhatsApp. There’ll likewise be a method to produce spaces though Facebook’s video chat gadget Portal.

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Facebook’s brand-new Messenger Rooms function lets you welcome anybody to a group video call.


Facebook

Video calling has actually increased throughout the coronavirus pandemic as more individuals remain at house to fight the spread of the infection, which triggers a breathing health problem called COVID-19. The release of the brand-new function demonstrates how Facebook has actually been moving its focus to items that individuals are utilizing more throughout the pandemic. In April, Facebook Messenger launched a brand-new desktop app so users might talk on a larger screen. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is likewise preparing to broaden group calls so you can voice or video phone to 8 individuals.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in a live broadcast on Friday that Messenger Rooms permits your loved ones to drop in at any time.

The release of the brand-new tool belongs to Facebook’s efforts around “video presence,” which he specified as the capability to seem like you’re linked to somebody live over video. 

“Video presence isn’t just about calling someone,” Zuckerberg stated. “It’s starting to be a fundamental building block of a private social platform with lots of different use cases.”

Making it much easier to video chat likewise features threats. Zoom came under fire for refraining from doing enough to safeguard personal privacy and security after individuals pirated get in touch with the service to share improper or unforeseen material consisting of hate speech, blasphemy and porn — a practice called Zoom-battle. Zoom has actually taken numerous steps to deal with those issues, consisting of making it much easier for hosts of conferences to discover security functions that can restrict access to a video chat. Facebook has actually been afflicted with numerous personal privacy concerns, consisting of the Cambridge Analytica information scandal, so users may be cautious about utilizing its service to video chat.


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Privacy concerns, though, haven’t stopped people from video chatting on Facebook during the pandemic. More than 700 million accounts participate in voice and video calls every day on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and the number of calls has more than doubled in many countries since the coronavirus outbreak began, Facebook said. The number of group video calls has gone up by more than 10 times in some cases.

Facebook said it doesn’t listen to your calls and there are ways to control your privacy. To create a room, you click on a video icon in Facebook Messenger. You can control who sees the room, and you can lock or unlock it. If a room is unlocked, anyone with the link can join and share it with others. You can share a room with your Facebook friends on News Feed, Groups and Events. The person who creates the room controls who can join and must be present in order for the call to begin. The room creator can remove guests at any time, and people can report a group video chat for violating Facebook’s rules. Reports to the social network won’t include video or audio from the call, Facebook said.

Zuckerberg didn’t mention Zoom in his remarks, but said the company has been “very careful” and tried to “learn the lessons” of how people have abused other video conference tools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook said Messenger Rooms will roll out in some countries this week before expanding globally in coming weeks. The social network didn’t specify which countries will get the new feature first. The company is also adding new augmented reality effects, including 14 camera filters to “brighten your space and your face.” The social network is introducing 360-degree backgrounds so users can feel like they’re somewhere else while they video chat, like the beach. Facebook plans to add an option in Facebook Dating, a feature within the main social network, so users can invite people to video chat in Messenger. 

The company has also been expanding features for Facebook Live, a tool people have been using more during the pandemic to work out, cook or attend religious services virtually. Facebook has faced several challenges when it comes to live video. People have used the tool to stream suicides and crimes, such as last year’s Christchurch mosque shootings. 

The company said it’s bringing back a tool that allows users to add another person to a live video and is introducing a way to mark Facebook events as live only. Instagram will now let you comment on live videos on your desktop and the photo app will make it possible to save your videos to IGTV so people can watch them after 24 hours. The company is also planning to introduce a feature that’ll let you broadcast a live video from Facebook Portal to Facebook Pages and Groups.

Facebook, which has 2.5 billion users, hasn’t released numbers on how many Facebook Portal devices it’s sold during the pandemic. Zuckerberg said sales of Portal have grown more than 10 times but didn’t specify the time period. The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings on April 29.

“I know that this is a challenging period for so many of us around the world,” Zuckerberg said. “My hope is that we can make a difference during this time and in the months ahead.”

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