As Zoom struggles from privacy issues, Facebook has taken the opportunity to fill the void with its "Messenger Rooms" function, where users can create a room right from Messenger or Facebook, and invite anyone to join their video call - even if they don’t have a Facebook account.
According to a press release, unlike Zoom's time restricted free rooms, Facebook's Rooms can hold up to 50 people and will have no time limit. Users can also start and share rooms on Facebook through their News Feed, Groups and Events. Messenger Rooms is said to roll out in some countries this week and will expand to the rest of the world in coming weeks. Marketing has reached out to Facebook regarding which countries these are.
This comes as there is overall an increase in demand for real-time video. According to the company, more than 700 million accounts participate in calls every day between WhatsApp and Messenger. In many countries, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled, and views of Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos increased significantly in March. Facebook also said it will soon add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, too.
Additionally, Facebook is also rolling out new updates for its Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Portal platforms. On its Facebook app, the company will be bringing back the "Live With" function, where users can add another person into their live video. This will allow users to bring on a guest speaker, interview an expert, or perform with a friend in their live videos.
It is also looking to help creators and small businesses bring their events online by adding the ability for Facebook Pages to charge for access to events with Live videos on Facebook – anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences. Users can also add the donate button to their live videos to help raise funds for selected non-profit organisations. Facebook will also be expanding its "Stars" features to more Pages and countries, where users can buy "stars" for creators while they are streaming, and creators will earn US$0.01 for every "star" received.
Facebook will also enable users to livestream games from their phones to Facebook using the new Facebook Gaming app. It has also launched a "Tournaments" feature for game streaming that lets you create, play and watch the competition in one spot. The tournaments feature is available on Facebook, and will be added to the Facebook Gaming app soon.
For Instagram, the company now allows users to watch and comment on live videos from desktop. Creators are also able to save their live videos to IGTV so the videos last longer than the 24-hour limit in its "Stories" function.
Other features that Facebook has launched include a virtual date option on its Facebook Dating platform, as well as expanding its child-friendly video and messaging app Messenger Kids to more than 70 countries. Messenger Kids is currently available in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, the company is looking to host Whatsapp Group calls of up to eight people, adding that these calls are secured with end-to-end encryption so no one else can view or listen to your private conversation, not even WhatsApp.
These new features follow Facebook's multiple efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Just last week, Facebook launched new Care reactions on its platform and on Messenger as a way for users to express and share their support to one another. In a series of tweets, Facebook’s EMEA communications manager Alexandru Voica said that the new Care reactions will be rolled out globally next week and will be alongside the existing six reactions on both platforms. On Facebook, the reaction includes an emoji hugging a red coloured hug tightly, while on Messenger, the emoji would be purple pulsating heart.
Earlier this month, it also added "Data for Good" tools to its recently launched COVID-19 information centre. These tools include three new disease prevention map types to provide disease forecasting and offer protective measures: co-location maps reveal the probability of people in one area coming in contact with people in another, predicting where COVID-19 infections may next appear. in the hopes of supporting health researchers and non-profit organisations in the fight against the global pandemic. The company also committed US$20 million to the UN Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the CDC Foundation in a bid to tackle COVID-19 last month.
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