Facebook is going all-in on video meetings.

It's announcing Messenger Rooms, a new way to join group video calls with up to 50 people. It's like a virtual hangout where friends can just drop in just to say hi. It's adding video calls to Facebook Dating, as well, and new live-streaming features to both Facebook and Instagram.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced these features in a live stream last month. He said more than 700 million people are making calls on Messenger and WhatsApp every day. So, Facebook is doubling-down on private communication and trying to help people connect in smaller groups. Here's what you need to know about Messenger Rooms and Facebook's other video efforts.

Facebook

What are Messenger Rooms?

Facebook is rolling out a video-calling feature called Messenger Rooms. It allows you and up to 49 others to join a group video call, which Facebook calls a "room". You’ll be able to start a room from Messenger, Facebook, Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, or Portal, and you can open the call to all or lock it to stop uninvited people from joining. You can remove participants, too.

While in a room, you can use Facebook’s augmented reality filters and change out your background to a virtual one. Facebook is including 360-degree views of exotic locations for backgrounds, and it's working on beauty filters as well as filters designed to brighten a dark room.

Keep in mind Zoom, a popular alternative to Facebook, also lets you join large group video calls and use virtual backgrounds.

How to create a Messenger Room

Once it's available to you, here's how to create a Room from your phone:

  1. Open the Messenger mobile app.
  2. Tap the People tab at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap Create a Room.
  4. Select the people who you want to join.
  5. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events.
  6. To share a Room with people who don't have Facebook, you can share a link with them.

You can join a room from your phone or computer -- no need to download anything, Facebook said.

Facebook

Are Messenger Rooms secure?

Facebook said room calls are not end-to-end encrypted unlike on WhatsApp. 

When will Rooms be available?

Facebook's Messenger Rooms feature is now available globally in the Facebook Messenger app. It's also going live in the Facebook app for some countries over the coming weeks. Messenger Rooms are coming to all of Facebook's products, starting with Messenger and Facebook, and then Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal.

What else is new at Facebook?

Facebook also announced video updates for the following apps:

Facebook

Facebook Live is resurrecting a feature called Live With, which enables you to invite another person to stream with you. The donate button is coming to live streams as well, so you can raise money from broadcasts during the pandemic. And Facebook is adding a virtual date option to Facebook Dating, essentially allowing you to make a video call with the feature.

Instagram

Instagram is allowing users to post live streams to IGTV and to Instagram stories after they finish the broadcast, and Instagram Live streams are finally coming to the desktop for the first time.

Portal

Lastly, Facebook Portal users are getting the ability to go live to pages and groups.

Facebook

Why is Facebooking doing this now?

Simply put: Alternatives to Messenger and WhatsApp - including ones focused on video calling - are surging in popularity at the moment. For consumers, there is Zoom, which now has more than 3000 million students. And then, for teams or students who use G Suite or Microsoft 365, there is Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, respectively. The point is: Facebook has stiff competition.

If it wants to keep consumers hooked on its apps and services, then it needs to be nimble and innovative, especially during times of crisis. Facebook is clearly paying attention to consumers, trends, and world events, and it's responding in an impressive way. It's no coincidence that Messenger Rooms and these other video features are arriving at a time when many need them most.