Facebook added video conversation into its Messenger app this fall to encourage users to treat the app as their default communication method, not only locally but internationally. To date, more than 245 million people are making one-on-one video chats every month on the service. Now the feature is expanding with the addition of group video chats.
To use group video chat, you need to have the latest version of Messenger, then go into an existing group conversation and tap the video icon in the upper right part of the screen. You’ve thus entered the video chat and every member of that group will be notified. From that point on everyone can join with just one tap. You are also able to call a select subset of people in the group.
Rolling out to iOS and Android apps today worldwide (so give it time if you don’t have it yet), a group video chat can hold up to 50 people participating in different ways — up to six people can be seen at a time, but 50 can listen and respond using text, stickers, emojis, and GIFs. In a way, it’s akin to Google Hangouts — the latter lets up to 10 people participate, while others can listen without participating.
The social network is clearly interested in capturing both consumers and, with the recent launch of its Work software, office employees who do a fair amount of telecommuting and video conferencing. To that end, workplace chat app Slack beat Facebook to the punch, adding video chat just last week. In the mobile space, Facebook is dealing with a whole other breed of competitor. Snapchat added video calling earlier this year, while WhatsApp just made the feature available widely to the public last month. Still, Facebook’s engineering capabilities on this front appear to be far ahead of other players in the video chat field.
Facebook says the update is rolling out today globally for both iOS and Android. While video chatting, the company stresses that Messenger’s other functions remain intact. So you can still send texts, stickers, and other animations while video and audio are transmitting. There is also one notable iOS-only feature: live masks. Similar to Snapchat filters that animate a visual overlay over your face in real time, Facebook’s live masks will go one step further and augment the live video chat with whatever goofy animation you’d like to place on the screen. The company says the feature should be arriving on Android soon.