Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a range of new video tools across Facebook's family of apps, in order to meet demand and evolving use-cases during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Zuckerberg made the announcements via Facebook Live stream, noting that with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic set to carry on for some time, live video is likely how we're going to see a lot more announcements and events.
Here's what's coming to Facebook's various video tools.
First off, on video calling - which Zuckerberg says is the most used type of video interaction in its apps around the world. Catering to this, Facebook will soon double the capacity of group video calls on WhatsApp from 4 to 8 participants.
That exceeds the on-screen video chat limit in Messenger, which displays up to six participants at a time, but you can add up to 50 people to a Messenger video chat, with the remainder in audio-only mode.
Zuckerberg praised the security measures of video calling on WhatsApp, and said that group video calls have been a highly requested feature among users.
Over on Messenger, Facebook is adding new effects tools to improve or alter your video chat presentation. Facebook's adding 360 virtual backgrounds to change the look of where you are in video calls.
While it's also adding 'Mood Lighting' effects, again to alter your video chat presentation.
Zuckerberg also discussed the recent expansion of Messenger Kids into more regions, noting that its messaging app for younger audiences now has over 7 million active users, and has seen 3.5x growth during COVID-19.
Facebook's also looking to assist singles during the COVID-19 lockdowns with a new tool that will enable Facebook Dating users to invite potential matches into video chats.
But the biggest addition announced by Zuckerberg is likely a new Messenger Rooms option that will be hosted in Facebook Messenger, but will be made available across all of Facebook's apps, providing a new option for people that want to set up virtual, unplanned hangouts to catch up.
As you can see here (in the first section of the video), Messenger Rooms looks a lot like Zoom - and that's likely a key inspiration.
Zuckerberg noted that Rooms taps into the rising popularity of virtual meeting spaces, but will be different to other offerings because people won't need to schedule their Rooms up front - "like you do with more typical enterprise services". Instead, you can start a Room at any time, and an active listing of all Rooms that you can join will be displayed at the top of your Facebook News Feed - even above Facebook Stories.
Zuckerberg says that this will be great for 'neat, serendipitous, spontaneous interaction’ - and definitely, you can see the value here. With your friends and connections able to set up Rooms, and list a topic of discussion, you'll be able to join whenever you want, and catch up via Messenger video.
Up to 50 people will be able to join a Room at a time, and there will be no time limits on how long a Room can run for. At this stage, however, Rooms will not be available to Facebook Pages, so you won't be able to create a separate Room meet-up under your Page/company name, you'll need to do so via a personal account.
Zuckerberg also notes that there will be very specific privacy controls and invite options for Messenger Rooms, while you'll also be able to schedule your Room meet-ups, if you'd prefer a more structured process.
You'll also be able to send Rooms invites across Facebook's apps - while Zuckerberg also says that even people without a Facebook account will be able to join via URL.
Rooms is now being tested with a selected group of users, with a broader rollout planned "in the coming weeks".
In addition to this, Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook is bringing its Live guests option back to Facebook Live.
Facebook removed the option to go live with a guest on Facebook last December, which, in retrospect, was unfortunate timing, given the current shift to video tools to connect amid COVID-19. Now Facebook will bring the option back once again - so for all those readers who've been asking where it went, it'll be restored very soon.
Zuckerberg also noted that the Facebook Events team has been redeployed to work on how live video can be utilized for events, and they're focused on creating new experiences, including the ability to charge fees for viewers to join live video functions on Facebook.
Zuckerberg says the capacity to charge video event fees will help artists and SMBs, and businesses that rely on in-person services to support them. More info to come soon.
And lastly, Zuckerberg officially announced that Instagram Live is coming to desktop PCs.
We reported on this earlier this month after several people noted that they were able to view Instagram Live broadcasts on the web. But now, it's official - you can view Instagram Live streams via the web by logging in on the desktop site.
In addition to these announcements, Zuckerberg also shared some new video usage stats, and provided an overview of Facebook's ongoing efforts to assist in the COVID-19 relief efforts.
On video usage, Zuckerberg says that:
- More than 700 million people are conducting video calls on Facebook's apps daily. The number of video calls has doubled during COVID-19, and some categories, like group video chat, have gone up 10x or more in the period.
- Sales of Facebook's Portal video connection device have grown by more than 10x during COVID-19. Zuckerberg says they're working hard to make more Portals to meet the demand.
- Every day, more than 800 million that engage with live video across Facebook's apps. Zuckerberg notes that, of all its video options, the fewest people are producing live content, but it attracts the most viewers. Worth noting in your approach.
There's a heap to take in, and we won't know the full detail of each new addition till they get fully released. But soon, you'll have a lot more Facebook video options to consider.
Some great opportunities to connect.