Almost all non-essential companies and businesses are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. And to help people stay connected with their colleagues and employees during these trying times, multiple video call conference softwares have entered the scene. We recently reported about some new video calling apps that have seen a notable jump in users during the lockdown.
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Facebook is also jumping in on the action with its new video conferencing app called Messenger Rooms. Anyone with a Facebook account can use the app to create a video meeting and invite other people to join, even if those people are not on Facebook. This new offering by the social media giant takes on some of the most popular video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, which was previously known as Hangouts. Here’s a quick look at the apps to help you understand what it offers.
A mix-bag of features
While Facebook is trying to establish its new video conferencing app, its features are quite similar to what we have already seen on Zoom. For example, one can join a conference hosted on Facebook’s new app without downloading the app, via the web. In addition, there’s also a notification feature that will notify users when new ‘rooms’ have been created by their friends at the top of their news feed. One can also ‘drop in’ to these rooms. This is similar to another app called Houseparty, which rose to popularity during lockdown.
“I’ve really enjoyed testing this,” Zuckerberg said. He described dropping into rooms with his friends as “this neat, serendipitous and spontaneous interaction.”
The new app will soon support video conferencing with up to 50 people and it is completely free of cost. On the other hand, It’s biggest competitor Zoom offers free use but only for one-on-one meetings. For groups, each session is limited to 40 minutes and 100 participants.
Microsoft offers Teams as its solution for video conferencing. However, the service works best when one has access to Microsoft’s 365 ecosystem of apps. It’s also available in a freemium version that supports up to 300 participants, unlimited message chat, and search. Google recently renamed its Hangouts offering to Google Meet, which is a video conferencing service. It is built into Gmail, YouTube, and Google Voice, and is currently free to use .
Google Meet supports up to 250 participants per call. It should be noted that to host a meeting, one needs a G Suite account but users with standard accounts can also join such meetings. The search giant is offering free access to Meet for schools and businesses through 30 September.
Doubling down on security
Zoom had to implement new security features to prevent unknown users from dropping into other people’s video chats. In order to ensure something similar doesn’t happen, Facebook says that Messenger Rooms features default settings for enforcing protection mechanisms. One who creates a room can control who is allowed to join can make a room open to their friends on Facebook or they can specifically send invites.
As mentioned earlier, one can invite people who don’t have a Facebook account. However, these links are less secure as anyone with access can get into a room. To deliver additional security, one can lock their current room so that no new people can join. Facebook says it will soon add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal too.
A wider audience
Facebook already has a widely established user base with over 2.41 billion monthly active users. This gives a big advantage to the social media giant as more users can simply download the app and start using it without making a new, separate account. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a live-streamed announcement that the ability to connect live over video has “emerged as especially important during this pandemic.” Beyond video conferencing for work, he said, “there are even more social uses of this, just for people to stay connected.”
Main image credits: Facebook
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