Facebook goes to war with Zoom, launches chat feature for 50 people

TOP LINE

Facebook is adding a new feature that allows users to video chat with up to 50 people, a direct challenge for video conferencing apps Zoom and Houseparty, both of which have seen their usage skyrocket amid the coronavirus pandemic.

HIGHLIGHTS

Messenger Rooms allows users to invite up to 50 people, even those without a Facebook account, to public and private video chat rooms for free and with no time limit.

Facebook said the feature is rolling out to some users on Friday and will expand to the rest of the world in the coming weeks.

Rooms will debut with a smaller limit, but the tool will soon scale to allow up to 50 people, a spokesperson said. Told CNBC.

Zoom allows video chats of 100 people, but has a time limit of 40 minutes with a free account; Houseparty can accommodate up to eight people.

Facebook pointed out that whoever creates the room controls who can join the room, who sees the room, and whether new people can join it – a blow to Zoom, which has addressed lingering privacy and security issues as uninvited users.Zoom-bomb“Chat rooms with inappropriate images or profanity.

Zoom shares, which have skyrocketed in recent months, have fallen more than 5% following the announcement.

Key context

Facebook

FB
has already been criticized for cloning competitor’s features and integrating them into their apps, especially after the launch of Snapchat-like Facebook and Instagram stories, as it keeps a close watch on social media newbies. The company was even working on a standalone group video chat app like Houseparty until it
to close the project last year.

News spades

As the coronavirus has forced people to depend on video conferencing tools for work, school, and communicating with friends, Zoom and Houseparty have become staples during the coronavirus shutdowns. Zoom’s daily active users have grown from 10 million to over 200 million in just two months. Houseparty also saw users increase.

Tangent

Facebook also announced a slew of new video features, including the ability to watch Instagram Live on desktops, Facebook Dating video calling, and increasing WhatsApp video calling from four to eight people.

Further reading

Zoom in on All Eyes: How the Home Era Deployment Tool is Coping with Growing Demand and Security (Forbes)

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