Facebook Messenger Rooms can handle calls with up to 50 people in US

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Facebook Messenger Rooms allows users to host video calls of up to 50 people free of charge.
Photo: Facebook

Facebook took on Zoom and FaceTime Thursday by enabling its new video-calling service, Messenger Rooms, to make free calls between as many as 50 people.

The feature was announced last month, and is available now is the US and Canada. It’ll be rolled out globally next week, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook Messenger Rooms is more casual chat

“For large groups most of the video services out there are designed for work, not social interactions,” noted Zuckerberg in a Facebook post. “Messenger Rooms is group video chat designed for social interactions.”

Messenger Rooms is now available to everyone in the US, Canada and Mexico, and will be available to everyone globally…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, May 14, 2020

Zoom really is a business video conferencing system that’s been adopted by the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Apple’s FaceTime is much more casual, with silly features like replacing users’ heads with animated dinosaurs.

Even so, it’s not Apple that will likely put up the most competition for Facebook Messenger Rooms. Zoom usage in March was up a staggering 2,680% year over year. But FaceTime usage is reportedly hardly up at all.

Facebook video chat brings the features

But Facebook’s offering includes features its rival don’t. Messenger Rooms have no time limits, for example, while Zoom charges for meetings longer than 40 minutes. And Facebook’s video chats can include up to 50 people, while Group FaceTime supports up to 32 people.

Meetings with Messenger Rooms don’t have to be scheduled. And, of course, it’s easy to share a room from a Facebook post.

This video-chatting service is part of the existing Messenger service, which is available as its own standalone app for iPhone or iPad. And there’s a version for Mac on the macOS App Store.