By Tracey Dowdy
Never one to let the competition get too far ahead, Facebook has come up with a new video chat alternative to its competitors, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. With Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit. Participants don’t even need an account to use the room.
Messenger Rooms offers more features than its Facebook Messenger video chat option, allowing up to 50 people on screen with no time limit through either the main Facebook app or through the dedicated Messenger one.
Zoom became especially popular in the early days of self-quarantining, but issues around security leading to Zoom-bombing soon became an issue. Facebook is no stranger to security and privacy problems. Still, in a livestream earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company has been “very careful.” He tried to “learn the lessons” from issues users have experienced with other video conference tools over the past several months.
Facebook also owns WhatsApp, with over 700 million accounts participating in voice and video calls every day on both platforms. In a press release in April, Facebook noted that the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Facebook seems to be taking the potential security risks seriously. Messenger Rooms promises these features:
- Locking: Rooms can be locked or unlocked once a call begins. If a room is closed, no one else can join, except a Group administrator for rooms created through a Group.
- Removing a participant: The room creator can remove any unwanted participants. If the room creator removes someone from the call or leaves, the room will lock automatically, and the room creator must unlock the call for others to join.
- Leaving: If at any point, users feel unsafe in a room, they can exit. Locking down a room prevents others from entering, not participants from leaving.
- Reporting: Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they feel it violated Facebook’s Community Standards. However, since Facebook doesn’t record Messenger Room calls, so reports and feedback will not include audio or video from the room.
- Blocking: You can block someone on Facebook or Messenger who may be bothering you, and they will not be informed. When someone you’ve blocked is logged into Facebook or Messenger, they won’t be able to join a room you’re in, and you won’t be able to join theirs.
Make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store to create a room on your phone.
- Open the Messenger app.
- Tap the People tab at the bottom right of your screen.
- Tap Create a Room and select the people you want to join.
- To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events.
- You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.
To create a room on your laptop or desktop, go to your Home Page and to the box at the top where you would usually post. Click on “Create Room” and follow the prompts to name your chat, invite guests, and choose your start time.
Currently available to everyone in the US, Canada, and Mexico, Messenger Rooms is rolling out worldwide over the next week.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.