Facebook takes aim at Zoom with video chat upgrade

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by Glenn Chapman

Facebook on Friday unveiled a new video chat service with virtual “rooms” where people can pop in to visit friends, aiming at users turning to the popular Zoom platform during the pandemic.

Through the Facebook Messenger application, users will be able to start video call sessions that as many as 50 friends can join and linger in as long as they wish, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.

Unlike work video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, “Messenger Rooms” is tailored for socializing with friends and family whether it be birthdays, happy hours, book clubs or parent groups.

“This is designed to be more serendipitous and spontaneous,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said while briefing AFP on Rooms.

“I just keep a window open on my computer or phone and people who I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to call just sort of drop by.”

“I feel like we are missing that in our lives right now,” he added.

The launch comes amid surging use of Zoom, which was designed as a business video platform, and other online chat services.

Facebook users will be able to create virtual rooms and decide who to invite to join, according to Zuckerberg.

“I could be hanging out on a couch on the weekend and send out an invite to all my friends to come to a ‘hanging-out-on-the-couch room,'” Zuckerberg said.

Fun features include augmented-reality effects such as bunny ears and aliens, along with immersive fake backgrounds. (AFP)

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