With the use of video-conferencing apps on the rise, Facebook is boosting the number of people you can have on a WhatsApp video call.
Video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom have become household names in recent weeks as millions try to keep in touch while staying at home. But some of the other players in tech are also looking to be part of the action, and now Facebook and its sister platforms are being upgraded so that more people can get together online.
Today (24 April), Facebook announced that the limit on the number of people on any WhatsApp group voice and video call will increase from four to eight. Following criticisms of Zoom’s level of encryption, Facebook emphasised that WhatsApp comes with end-to-end encryption.
It is also launching Messenger Rooms, where up to 50 people can join a video call at a time. This is accessed through the Messenger app and does not require a Facebook account to join.
However, Facebook users can post a meeting invite to their News Feed or through groups and event pages. Eventually, the company plans to introduce the ability to create rooms from Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook’s Portal device.
Those with the Messenger app will be able to use 360-degree backgrounds and other augmented reality features, such as giving a user bunny ears.
Given existing fears over the phenomenon of ‘zoombombing’, the person creating the room can remove people from a call and lock it to prevent other people from joining. Messenger Rooms is rolling out in a number of countries this week before expanding globally in the coming weeks.
Livestreaming, gaming, dating
In a blog post, Messenger’s vice-president, Stan Chudnovsky, said: “We don’t view or listen to your calls, and the person who creates the room controls who can join, who sees the room, and if the room is locked or unlocked to new guests.
“The room creator must be present in order for the call to begin, and the creator can remove guests at any time.”
On the main Facebook platform, the social network said that it will soon introduce a feature for creators and small businesses to charge a fee for access to livestreams. Gaming is also being heavily pushed with the introduction of the Facebook Gaming app.
Only available on Android so far, the app allows for users to play games and watch game streamers, while a feature called Tournaments is being launched on the main Facebook platform to create and play in gaming tournaments.
In the US, users will now also be able to have dates online through Facebook Dating, using video chats in Messenger. This will be rolled out in the coming months to regions where Facebook Dating is available.
However, this feature won’t be coming to Ireland in the near future. The platform’s Irish launch was quickly pulled earlier this year, just before its scheduled introduction ahead of Valentine’s Day, after concerns were raised by the Data Protection Commission.