Facebook has just launched Rooms, a new feature that allows friends to conduct video calls beyond just one-on-one chats. It’s a competitive move against other apps like Houseparty or Zoom, whose popularities have been soaring amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
The new update is currently available in English speaking countries on mobile and desktop — users can try it out by going to the new section above Facebook’s News Feed. In a statement, the company suggested the app can be used for a variety of virtual get-togethers: “host celebrations, gather a book club or just hang out on the couch with friends.” Apart from features like being able to change out 360 backgrounds, one noteworthy aspect of Rooms is that it can be used by anyone on the web, even for those who don’t have an account. Currently, up to eight people can join a call, but Facebook is looking to increase that number to a maximum occupancy of 50. While the app will automatically send notifications to friends, invites and share links can also be extended — “you don’t need to call someone and hope it’s a good time or check everyone’s calendar first,” notes Facebook.
The new feature comes at a time with a number of competitors, but it appears Rooms was in the works for quite some time, in the form of numerous trials, like with the standalone app called Bonfire that released back in 2017, or when Facebook quietly tested out a video call feature, also called Rooms, in anonymous forums back in 2014. Facebook plans to integrate Rooms into its other apps, like Instagram and Whatsapp, so users have the convenience of accessing the same feature across multiple platforms: this marks the company’s first interoperable product.
In case you missed it, Facebook has also launched a dedicated gaming app to rival Twitch and YouTube.