Facebook Messenger now lets you video chat with more friends than you probably have

Even if you can't go home for the holidays, Facebook Messenger just made it easier than ever to connect with friends and family far and wide. 

The social network's messaging app has added the ability to hold video chats in groups, letting you talk face-to-face with as many as 50 (!) people in one go. That trounces the number of participants you can have in a Google Hangout or Skype video call, both of which are limited to 10.

Facebook says group video chatting is the most requested Messenger feature ever, and it's available globally starting today on iOS, Android and the desktop version of Messenger.

Part of the fun - though only on iOS for now - is putting on 3D masks during your chat, lending some Snapchat-like silliness to your video conversations.  

Ready for your close-up? 

To start a group video chat, you'll first need to make sure you have the most recent version of Messenger. 

Once you've settled that, head into an existing group chat or start a new one, then tap the video icon in the upper right hand corner. 

This will prompt a video chat, and everyone in the group will receive a heads up it's started. Other participants can join with a tap, though you can call individuals or the whole group directly.

Once chats hit more than six participants, only the dominant speaker will be shown to the group, though everyone can still talk and be on video. Chatters can choose whether they want to participate only by audio, or be on camera.

Group video chats are yet another way Facebook is connecting us, and another feature it's adding against the likes of FaceTime, Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp (which Facebook owns), and other messaging platforms. 

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.