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Facebook rivals Zoom with new Messenger Rooms video calling

The company has also updated video calling on WhatsApp

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No doubt envious of the sudden popularity of Zoom and its 300 million daily users, Facebook has countered with a new video calling service of its own.

Called Messenger Rooms, the feature works much like group video calling in Zoom and other apps. Users create a room within the Messenger of Facebook app (including the Messenger app for Windows and Mac), then invite friends to join them.

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Up to 50 people can be in a single room and there is no time limit, unlike the 40 minute restriction imposed by Zoom for video chats with three people or more when none have a Pro account.

Facebook says people can be invited to join a Messenger Room even if they don't have a Facebook account. Rooms can be shared through the News Feed, as well as in the Groups and Events sections of Facebook. The company says it will also soon add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, too.

The Messenger app lets you apply augmented reality effects (yes, like bunny ears), as well as AI-powered features like virtual backgrounds and mood lighting. Rooms can be locked to prevent new people from joining, and the host can remove anyone they don't want in the room. Messenger Rooms is rolling out in "some countries" now, although Facebook hasn't said which these are. It will expand to the rest of the world "in coming weeks".

Additionally, Facebook has announced that audio and video calls on WhatsApp can now be had with up to eight people at once.

Finally, Facebook's dating service now has the option to set up a virtual date. As meeting in person isn't possible at the moment due to coronavirus lockdown, Facebook Dating users can invite each other on a virtual date - AKA, a video chat in the Messenger app. Facebook says this will be rolling out "in the coming months".


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