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Facebook is Slowly Rolling out Messenger Rooms Across Their Platforms

Last edited: May 11, 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes, 19 seconds

Last month, Facebook rolled out their video calling platform Messenger Rooms. This platform will be competing with other video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Houseparty. Facebook is now implementing a shortcut to the platform in WhatsApp, starting with WhatsApp Web. It will be implemented in other Facebook owned platforms as well.

Facebook Messenger Rooms

Facebook introduced the feature Messenger Rooms on April 24. The company had been working on this feature since at least 2017. They sped up the development process over the last period of time, since video conferencing has become so popular in times of lockdown. Facebook is now trying to get a piece of the video conferencing pie as well.

Messenger Rooms allows up to 50 people to participate in a video chat. The host can invite people to join by simply sending a link, similar to other platforms like Zoom. Participants don’t have to be Facebook users to access a room. Of course, the person creating the Room does need to be a Facebook user. Unlike Zoom, Messenger Rooms conferences will not have a time limit. So far, there are no plans for ads or other ways to use the feature to bring in extra money for the company. It seems that the main goal is to keep users reliant on Facebook’s products.

Privacy

Platforms like Zoom and Houseparty have struggled with privacy issues. The platforms weren’t designed for the use that they have been exposed to over the last couple of weeks. This resulted in some issues. The main issue with zoom was that meeting codes were posted online and people kept ‘Zoombombing’ meetings.

Facebook has learned from what has happened to these platforms – even though they downplayed their influence – and they have added some privacy features to make Rooms a secure platform. First of all, only the person who creates a room has the authority to allow people to join. This host also has the power to remove guests from a room. If they decide to do this, a room will automatically lock until the host unlocks it. So if anyone does find your link online, people can’t just keep joining.

There are different options to creating a room. You can choose to invite specific people, like your family, but you can also choose to create a Room for all your Facebook friends. They will see that the Room is open to them above their news feed and are then free to join. Another option is to share a link to a room in a public place, so that anyone can join.

A room can be reported to Facebook when any of Facebook’s rules are violated. Facebook said that they will not view or listen to any calls. They have also clarified that calls are not end-to-end encrypted. You do have to be aware that if you have a Facebook account, they do collect a lot of data about you.

Rooms on WhatsApp

Facebook said that shortcuts to Messenger Rooms will be added to Instagram, WhatsApp and Portal. Today, an update for WhatsApp Web was released in which they are working to add a shortcut to Messenger Rooms. The shortcuts aren’t available to everyone yet, since the feature is still under development. When they are available you can find them in the 2.2019.6 Web update.

The addition can be found in two places. First you can find it under the attachment button in a conversation. There is now a fifth option which offers you a shortcut to Messenger Rooms. You can also find a shortcut in the WhatsApp main menu, where they’ve added to option to ‘create a room’.

This addition comes after the announcement that WhatsApp has expanded it’s group calls from a maximum of four participants to a maximum of eight. These calls are secured with end-to-end encryption. This opens up WhatsApp video calls to friend groups as well, and this could mean more competition for platforms like Zoom and Houseparty.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.

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