Facebook’s video conference platform, Messenger Rooms, which allows upto 50 participants and has no time limit to conferences, is now available globally, including in India. The service is built into Facebook’s Messenger service for users outside of North America, and while only people with a Facebook profile can initiate calls, people without a Facebook profile will be able to join calls. Rooms is a potential competitor to Zoom which is seeing more than 300 million daily meeting participants, and in its free tier allows up to 100 participants, but has a 40 minute limit to group conferences. MediaNama tested Rooms on both Android and iOS, and it can be accessed by selecting the “People” tab on Messenger.
Rooms includes a myriad augmented reality (AR) based effects and filters, however, we could spot a few differences in terms of features on iOS and Android. For instance, on iOS, it is possible for users to have an artificial background (like on Zoom), but in our testing, that was not possible on Android. The service allowed us to share our screen on Android, but we couldn’t do that on iOS. We tested the service on iPhone X and OnePlus 7. Rooms can also be accessed from Messenger’s Windows and Mac client.
When Facebook had announced Rooms last month, it had claimed that it will allow users to lock a video call, and once a call is locked, no one else can join, except a group admin for rooms created through a group. Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they think it violates Facebook’s community guidelines, but the company claims that it doesn’t listen to your audio or video calls. If a user has blocked someone on Facebook or Messenger, they will not be allowed to join the same room.
Facebook plans to roll out the service on Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and the company’s smart displays, Portal. It is worth noting that Rooms is not not end-to-end encrypted, which can pose a potential challenge to the company when it tries to scale the service to WhatsApp, which is end-to-end encrypted. However, WABetaInfo has spotted a link to Messenger Rooms in the latest version of the WhatsApp Web Client and in the beta version of the Android app, which indicates that Facebook is working on integrating Rooms across its offerings.
We had earlier pointed out that while users can join a call on Rooms without necessarily having a Facebook profile, the company says that it collects data from Rooms — such as device and browser type, their product usage information, and technical information — regardless of whether a user has joined through one of its apps or without logging into an account. Facebook may also share information such as the name of a room and who’s in it, with outside vendors to review and address issues reported by users.