Zoom, the video conferencing app that grew exponentially during the novel coronavirus pandemic as people were forced to stay back home and work from home on lockdown orders, is being taken on by the social media giant Facebook which has a long history of incorporating new features on to the platform to mimic what the successful features of rivals.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that a new video conference version of the existing Messenger app, called Messenger Rooms, if being created by the social media giant.
Zuckerberg said in a video announcement that users of the new service will be able to hold a virtual meeting over the internet of a total of 50 participants ay one time with no limit on the length of time for such meetings.
The free version of Zoom allows a meeting of 100 people at a time but such meetings can go on only for 40 minutes.
Facebook said that even if people do not have Facebook accounts, they can be invited into the Messenger Rooms for meetings.
In recent months, there has been an explosion of holding virtual meetings through video calling because of the work from home norm implemented due to the coronavirus outbreak. This sudden trend has increased Zoom’s popularity to the extent that the app added tens of millions of new users as it offered hosting of large virtual gatherings with fun additions, such as customizable photo backgrounds.
That feature is also being added on by Facebook. The company said that AI-enabled virtual backgrounds will be incorporated into Messenger Rooms. The difference will be the 360 degree span of Facebook’s backgrounds which will take the experience to “the next level,” said Zuckerberg in the announcement.
Users can now use the Messenger app or the main Facebook platform to access the Rooms. However the company said that the feature will soon be incorporated into other applications, including Instagram and WhatsApp, both of which are owned by Facebook. The company will be rolling out the feature in some countries this week while it will be available to users worldwide in the coming weeks.
During the pandemic, there has also been a huge spike in the usage of its existing video services which the company now also will be expanding. Zuckerberg said that in recent months, the usage of video calling services of the company has more than doubled in many countries and over 700 million people participate in video calls on its apps each day on the average during normal times.
The company will be increasing the number of people that can simultaneously join a video call on WhatsApp to eight from four on this mobile messaging service, Facebook said. Zuckerberg said that the company will launch this update next week.
“WhatsApp is the only end-to-end encrypted video calling service,” he added, in what may have been a veiled swipe at recent controversies over Zoom’s privacy and security protections.
(Adapted from CNN.com)