(Pocket-lint) - Facebook allows you to use its Messenger platform to make one-on-one video calls and group video calls with up to 50 people - sort of like a virtual hangout, where friends can just drop in just to say hi. Here's everything you need to know about making video calls on Messenger.

Getting started with Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is one of the most widely used messaging services, with more than 700 million people making calls on it every day. It's free and offers several communications features including video calling, and it's available around the globe, across a range of devices.

You can install the Messenger app on your iPhone or Android phone from the Apple App Store or Google Play, respectively. There's also a Messenger app for MacOS and Windows desktops. You can even access Messenger from Facebook on the web or from the dedicated Messenger web app. Installing or using the latest version of Messenger ensures you will have access to the latest features.

  • Go here to grab the latest version of the Messenger app

If you should ever deactivate your Facebook account, you can still use Messenger. In fact, you can share photos, videos, start group chats, and more - all without a Facebook account. Eventually, Facebook said it hopes to integrate all its messaging platforms, including WhatsAapp and Instagram, so that users will be able to start a conversation and access it across from any of Facebook's services.

The first phase of this effort comes in the form of Messenger Rooms, a new video-calling feature, which we discuss in detail below.

Facebook

How to video chat with someone or a group on Messenger

You can video chat with just one person or with a group of people using Messenger. 

Messenger mobile app for iOS and Android

From the chats area, open a conversation with the person or group you want to video chat, and then click the video call icon (see above).

Note: If you're not connected to Wi-Fi when placing a video call with your mobile device, the feature will use your existing data plan.

Facebook.com or Messenger.com

From the chats area, open a conversation with the person or group you want to video chat, and then click the video call icon (see above).

Note: Calling on messenger.com or facebook.com is only available using the browsers Chrome or Opera.

Messenger desktop app for Mac and Windows

From the chats area, open a conversation with the person or group you want to video chat, and then click the video call icon (see above).

Facebook Portal devices

Portal calls can be received on Portal devices, the Messenger app on mobile phones or tablets, messenger.com or facebook.com, or on WhatsApp on mobile phones. But you can't use Portal to call Messenger connections that don't have Facebook accounts - confusing we know.

Anyway, to make a video call on a Portal, be sure to add your Facebook Messenger account when you initially set up the device, and then you can simply say to it: “Hey Portal, call [contact name].” Portal may ask you to confirm which contact you’re trying to call.

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Facebook

How do Messenger Rooms work?

Facebook is rolling out a new 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, also lets you join large group video calls and use virtual backgrounds.

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.

Rooms are now available globally in the Messenger app. It's going live in the Facebook app for some countries from spring 2020. Messenger Rooms are coming to all of Facebook's products, starting with Messenger and Facebook, and then Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal.

You can join a room from your phone or computer -- no need to download anything, Facebook said. Room calls are not end-to-end encrypted.

Want to know more?

Check out our Messenger tips and tricks.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.