Facebook Messenger already had video chat functionality, but it was limited both in the total number of people allowed to participate, and also in its requirement that all of them have a Facebook account.
With the new Messenger Rooms, that changes. First up, you can host video chats of up to 50 people, and those who don’t have a Facebook account can still join – they’ll receive a link to the Room you have created. With one click they can then join the conversation – just like with Zoom. Importantly, Messenger Rooms has no time limit whatsoever.
If you join a Room through the Messenger app, then you can play with AR effects and new features like immersive backgrounds and mood lighting. The creator of a Room chooses who can see and join it, and can remove anyone from the call at any time, as well as lock the Room if they don’t want anyone else to enter. And you can of course leave a Room whenever you want. Rooms you create through a Facebook Group are open by default to members of that Group. Facebook emphasized that the person who creates the room controls who can join, who sees the room, and if new people can join at all—a knock at Zoom, Messenger Rooms lets users invite up to 50 people, even those without Facebook accounts, to both public and private video chat rooms for free and with no time limit. Facebook is adding a new feature that lets users video chat with up to 50 people, a direct challenge to video conferencing apps Zoom and Houseparty.
Messenger Rooms is rolling out “in some countries” this week, and will expand globally “in the coming weeks”.
Facebook said it will also expand its Facebook and Instagram livestreaming features. Instagram users, for example, will now be able to post their livestreams to IGTV, giving followers a longer time window to watch livestreams after they’ve been recorded.