Facebook has now rolled out new features in its video calling domain to capture the now dominant market. The company recently introduced Messenger Rooms, a video conferencing tool that will allow up to 50 people to join in on a call. The new features also include adding up to 8 people on a Whatsapp video call, video calls on Facebook Dating, its digital dating product, and more live-streaming features on Facebook and Instagram.
The Facebook Messenger Rooms is debuted at the time when Zoom’s daily active user count reaching 300 million users in less than a month. The popular group video calling app user base just grew by 50% from 200 million active daily users despite security and privacy concerns. This is mainly due to the lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 leading to more people working remotely from their homes.
Messenger Rooms: Private And Secure?
The social media giant has created a chat tool very similar to the Zoom app, but hopes to provide more privacy. A user creating a Room controls the setting of the room for who can join and can decide whether to enable or share a link for the Room. The link will also allow users without Facebook accounts to join the room, by only providing a name and no additional software download. There will be no time limit on the calls.
Regarding user data, Facebook has reassured that they will use this data only to improve the product and its services not to inform ads. All the content in Rooms will be encrypted, however not end-to-end encrypted, as of now, though this is said to be changed in the future.
Facebook making its advance (or replicating) into group video chat space:
Earlier this month, Facebook segregated the messenger from its native Facebook app for the desktop in a bid to counter Zoom’s increasing popularity. It introduced a standalone desktop messenger app, allowing users to video call from a bigger screen via their laptops and PCs. They cited a 100% increase in people using their desktop browsers for calling on Messenger as the reason for the app.
The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said today, in a live stream:
“Video presence isn’t a new area for us, but it’s an area that we want to go deeper in, and it fits the overall theme, which is that we’re shifting more resources in the company to focus on private communication and private social platforms, rather than just the traditional broader ones,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO – Facebook
However, the timing of these tools leads us to believe that Facebook is doing its best to compete with rivals Zoom and Houseparty – another social networking service that allows group video calling through mobile as well as desktop apps. This is not the first time that Facebook has entered the market with cloned features. It is known for taking up a flawed but popular app and providing its own version of it has solved the flaws.
It is definitely ironic that Facebook, which came under fire several times in the past for users’ data privacy issues, is aiming to provide a video calling tool with a promise of security. Not long ago, the social networking giant just announced the $5 billion settlement with the FTC, regarding its role in the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.
But that’s not all the past incidents that are questioning the promise of security of users’ personal data. Quite recently, sensitive personal data of 267 million Facebook users have gone up for sales on the dark web, right after 500,000 user accounts of Zoom turned up for sale.
Messenger Rooms now available in India
Messenger Rooms is already available in a number of countries and is set to be rolled out globally soon. It is available in India on both Android and iOS, and requires a Messenger app download or update.
To use the tool, you must open the Messenger app and go to the “People” tab. Choose the “Create Room” option on top, and join using your profile name. Once here, you can use the “Share Link” to invite others to join the call. However, there is no option to join the group chat just yet.
It remains to be seen how and if Facebook overtakes the competitors with Rooms. But the main issue would be if they can ensure data privacy better than before.