Zoom gets a new rival as Facebook Messenger Rooms launches 50-way video calls

Messenger Rooms
(Image credit: Facebook)

Video calling software is hugely popular at the moment, with Zoom the main beneficiary. Now Facebook wants more of the video calling market, and has introduced a new tool called Messenger Rooms.

As Facebook explains in a blog post, Messenger Rooms isn't a separate app but rather a feature that can be launched from the existing Facebook or Messenger apps.

Importantly in the battle for eyeballs with Zoom, other people can join a Messenger Rooms chat without a Facebook account, and there's support for up to 50 participants. And you can play around with virtual backgrounds too, Zoom-style.

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"Host celebrations, gather a book club or just hang out on the couch with friends," Facebook suggests. "You don’t need to call someone and hope it’s a good time or check everyone’s calendar first."

All about the video chat

Facebook says it'll soon be adding Messenger Rooms integration to Instagram, WhatsApp, and the Portal video caller too, so you'll be able to jump into a video chat from whatever app or device you happen to be on.

This follows on from the unified Windows and macOS Messenger app that Facebook launched last month. The social network is seeing more and more traffic across its various apps and wants to make sure getting connected is as simple as possible.

In another nod to how we're all using video chat much more nowadays, Facebook has also reinstated the Live With feature for livestream broadcasts, where two people can join in on one livestream. The feature was cut in November as it didn't add enough "value", according to Facebook at the time.

The roll out of Messenger Rooms – which Facebook says will happen in the coming weeks – gives you yet another way of keeping in touch with friends and family while we're all shut up and separated indoors.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.