Facebook is Launching Messenger Rooms to Take on Zoom

Facebook Rooms will work with Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and More

Facebook wants you to start using its new Messenger Rooms for group video meetings and, maybe, leave Zoom behind.

Mark Zuckerberg
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Facebook is launching its own group video meeting service: Messenger Rooms. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch during a Facebook live video.

What is this: Messenger Rooms is a group video chat platform built on Facebook Messenger, but will work with Facebook products WhatsApp, Instagram, Portal, and even for those who do not have an account with any Facebook products (they'll get a link that works on desktop and mobile web browsers). "The basic idea is that you should be able to create a room for any event or activity you want to hold, and then [participants] should be able to drop by," said Zuckerberg.

Like Zoom, right? Zuckerberg carefully avoided mentioning Zoom, the ultra-popular video conferencing app that, in the age of COVID-19, has powered countless business meetings and untold virtual birthday parities. It's also been a bit of a punching bag because of unfortunate privacy and security missteps.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg introduces Messenger Rooms on Facebook Live.  Facebook

Not like Zoom: Messenger Rooms will not ask you to schedule a room. Instead, there'll be a "tray" at the top of your Facebook Newsfeed for all your active rooms. Basically, people can virtually run into each other. Scheduling is possible, too, and the system will ping participants five minutes before the meeting starts.

Rooms size: Messenger Rooms meetings can hold up to 50 participants and there's no time limit. Facebook is also integrating Event support into Rooms.

  • Max number of participants in Zoom (free) meetings: 100
  • Time limit for Zoom (free) meetings: 40 minutes (they they often automatically extend it)
  • Max number of participants in Messenger Rooms meetings: 50
  • Time limit for Messenger Rooms meetings: Unlimited

Not making Zoom's mistakes: Messenger Rooms will support private rooms where only those with links can get in. Even if you leave the room open to your Facebook friends or a certain group, Zuckerberg explained that there are other safeguards in place. "It's really important that annoying people or problematic people do not join," said Zuckerberg. He described how, based on Facebook signals, the system might not let in someone you don't know very well. He did not explain exactly how Rooms would know to let in Aunt Mary, but not Uncle Finster, but we kind of get it.

There will also be tools to kick people out of a meeting and lock the meeting room.

Where is my Rooms? Facebook has been testing Rooms in a couple of localities, but plans for a wider roll out over the coming weeks.

Bottom line: Facebook set out to connect the world. Then the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders happened and Zoom ended up doing it instead. Now, Facebook wants to take back the social network mantle for video conferencing. The question is, will you switch?

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