Facebook apparently felt left out of the video chat parties taking place during the virus lockdowns—so it simply launched its own. Showing that social distancing doesn't have to adversely affect social networking, the company announced on Friday its new Messenger Rooms, a videoconferencing rival to platforms like Zoom and Houseparty, Axios reports. The meeting organizer can launch an open or locked "room" from Facebook or Messenger and invite up to 50 people, and the invitees don't have to have a Facebook account to join. There will be no time limit for the free virtual get-togethers, and users can take advantage of such options as special backgrounds and augmented-reality filters. The company says it will soon allow rooms to be started from WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and Portal as well.
"Video presence isn't a new area for us," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tells the Verge. "But it's an area that we want to go deeper in. ... This is a good mix: We're building tools into Facebook and Instagram that are helping people find smaller groups of people to then go have more intimate connections with, and be able to have private sessions with." Messenger Rooms won't allow for the 50-person max right away (the limit will vary initially), but they'll soon be open to that capacity, a company rep tells CNBC. Facebook also announced several other developments, including video calls in Facebook Dating via Messenger, as well as a renewed focus on livestreaming such happenings as religious services and workout sessions to Facebook Live and Instagram Live. (Read more Facebook stories.)