If you feel like you cant trust Zoom over its privacy record, but feel Facebook is a safe alternative, you are in luck. It’s being reported today that Facebook has announced a new feature bringing group video chat to the platform with Messenger Room. As reported by Techcrunch who first broke the story:
Launching today on mobile and desktop, you can start a video chat Room that friends can discover via a new section above the News Feed or notifications Facebook will automatically send to your closest pals. You can also just invite specific friends, or share a link anyone can use to join your Room.
It’s a direct competitor to FaceTime, Zoom, and others, however basic features that are missing will make it hard for users to switch right off the bat:
For now, up to 8 people can join, but that limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it a more legitimate alternative to Zoom for big happy hours and such. And more importantly, users will soon be able to create and join Rooms through Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal, plus join them from the web without an account, making this Facebook’s first truly interoperable product.
And, we can’t talk about Facebook without bringing up privacy. If you were hoping these video calls would be end-to-end encrypted, we’ve got bad news, they aren’t. as noted by The Verge:
Room calls are not end-to-end encrypted, but Facebook says it does not view or listen to calls. The creator of a room can remove participants at any time, and rooms where illicit behavior is taking place can be reported to Facebook. (WhatsApp video calls are end-to-end encrypted, offering an extra layer of protection to users.)
The feature will rollout on all of Facebook’s app in conjunction with Facebook Messenger including on the Mac, using the new standalone Messenger app.
Facebook also plans to include a donate button to help artists and musicians who are unable to preform in person. Additionally, there will be a “Live via audio-only” option meant to “conserve user data,” for users on a limited data plan.
While Facebook may have good intentions, it’s just joining an already crowded market of video chat services. But, with its large user base, it may prove to be a real challenge for Zoom and others to keep up with.