Facebook launches new video app ‘Messenger Rooms’

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Hang out with up to 50 people at a time and never worry about the time limit, This is Facebook golden bullet as it is rolling out the video-call competitor to Zoom.

All Facebook account owners/users will have access to this new feature, called Messenger Rooms, to allows anyone create a video meeting and invite their friends to join, even if those people are not Facebook users.

Are they reinventing the wheel here; Is this a new innovation; Probably not born out of necessity. Some might see this as a friendly competition and others would call this attempting to take out the top dog.

For a few months now video conferencing has become a staple for many people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s how they keep up with work, school, family, friends and activities.

The leader dominating at the moment is Zoom mostly due to its ease of use, where all you have to do is click a link to participate in a meeting.  with 300 million people, myself included participating in meetings on its platform every day, the company has claimed its numbers is still growing as the demand continue to rise and with no end to the Covid-19 pandemic in sight.

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Zoom has bad its fair share of the dark side – where the service has suffered abuse. In “Zoombombing” attacks, unwanted intruders have disrupted meetings with pornography and racist harassment. Zoom has since taken steps to improve security, including requiring participants to enter passwords by default.

Some alternatives to Zoom include Microsoft Teams, Skype and Hangouts.

So it is no surprise that social media giant Facebook which already has millions of people using its sister app ‘whatsapp’ for video communication wants a piece of the pie – when they announced their new feature Facebook video call aimed at reaching its over 700 million voice/video calls daily users.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed announcement on Friday that the ability to connect over live video has

“emerged as especially important during this pandemic.” Beyond video conferencing for work, he said, “there are even more social uses of this, just for people to stay connected.”

Messenger Rooms looks eerily similar to Zoom and functions in much the same way. Participants can join without downloading an app. It also mirrors elements of the popular video app Houseparty: Facebook users will see notifications at the top of their news feed about new “rooms” their friends have created, so they can “drop in” as they want.

“I’ve really enjoyed testing this,”

Zuckerberg said. He described dropping into rooms with his friends as “this neat, serendipitous and spontaneous interaction.”

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With regards to the most important thing with any service, security, Facebook said Messenger Rooms will have default settings to protect hosts and users from attacks like zoombombings. Part of the security is the ability for to control who is allowed to join. They can make a room open to anyone they are friends with on Facebook, or they can invite specific people.

Facebook messenger rooms will not require password, in place of that they provide the creator of the room with the ability to lock rooms so that only participants can join and anyone can be kicked off the room.

Non Facebook users will be able to join rooms but not create rooms. They will be able to do this via link that can be sent to them by hosts. An issue with this is that anyone will be able to share the link with others who can then use it to join the room. Another concern is that Users can also report a room for violating Facebook’s rules. The concern is that this could be subject to abuse by users.

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Finally the issue of privacy – The social network admitted it would take some information from users. Information such as what device and browser they are using and users names which would be used to identify themselves in meetings.

It dispelled the claims that it listen to or watch video and audio calls and that any information it collects will be used to

provide the service and improve the product experience.” It said it will not run ads in rooms, and audio and video won’t be used for ad targeting.

Facebook will roll out Messenger Rooms worldwide over the next few weeks.

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