WHAT IS FACEBOOK’S ‘MESSENGER ROOMS’ & COULD IT BE BETTER THAN ZOOM?

Earlier today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of changes and new features to Facebook applications in an effort to make them more social distancing friendly. Of them, perhaps the most newsworthy is Messenger Rooms, Facebook’s take on Zoom

But uhh what exactly is Messenger Rooms and could it really be the next home for our Dungeons and Dragons sessions, club quarantine nights and virtual hangouts and dates?

What Are Messenger Rooms?

Messenger Rooms is Facebook’s response to Zoom and Houseparty. Essentially it’s a video call service used through the Facebook Messenger app, that lets you host virtual hangouts with up to 50 people. And, like Houseparty, people can drop in and out of your calls whenever they like and there’s no time limit on your video hangs. 

How Do You Use Messenger Rooms?

You can access rooms in the Messenger app. Essentially, you go to the People section of the app and “create a room.” 

From there, you can make it that people can only join if they have the link to the call, are on Facebook or are even on your Facebook friends list. Trying it out for this piece, I found it pretty easy to use but, a bit like Houseparty, it’s a bit awkward when people spontaneously join your call.

How does it compare to others?

Probably the most wildest feature of Facebook’s Messenger Rooms app is the ability to have 360-degree backgrounds. By comparison, Zoom lets you create your own greenscreen by mapping colours and objects shown on your camera, and Houseparty has a series of mini-games instead of virtual backgrounds. And, ngl, the potential of having an immersive surrounding background is kinda worth switching over to Messenger Rooms. 

I mean, just imagine these aesthetically pleasing Zoom backgrounds but with surround sound and visuals. Or, Idk any of these:

Idk about you, but I’m ready to have a surround sound experience with my friends dedicated to 24/7 lo-fi chill hip-hop beats to study and relax to. 

Additionally, compared to Zoom and Houseparty, Messenger Rooms is the first of these video conference style services to be connected to a social media account. While you don’t need to have a Facebook account to connect to a Messenger Room, it’s nice that it already has all of your contacts saved, meaning all of your friends can join you seamlessly. 

But will people actually use Messenger Rooms?

It’s hard to say whether Messenger Rooms will kick off as is. I mean, if you had told me that Zoom would go from 10 million users in December to 100 million, according to The Verge, I’d be asking where you got your facts right. But, the current state of the world leaves us no other option but to use these conference calls and Messenger Rooms being tied to Facebook and your contacts might be more reassuring to people than creating a Zoom account.

To me, the biggest sell are these 360 degree virtual backgrounds and an unlimited time limit on calls, but, if Facebook finds a way to incorporate the events section of Facebook, unlock the cap and allow artists to host concerts within those spaces, it might truly takeover as my more preferred virtual hangout spot. Or, y’know, serve as a quasi-home for the local music and creative arts scene.

Oh, And FYI, Instagram Live Is Getting The Glow Up It’s Needed For Ages

Equally as important, Instagram Lives are going to be way more accessible. Currently, you can only view an Instagram Live feed through the mobile app, and the clip will only remain on Instagram for 24 hours. But, now, you’ll be able to republish your Instagram Live broadcasts as IGTVs and save clips from your IG Live feeds to your Instagram Stories after they’ve finished streaming. Y’know, instead of screen recording it, editing it and then sharing it. 

How this will work with live and post-broadcast comments once an Instagram Live is shared on IGTV is unclear but for us Aussies at least, it means we can finally watch some of our favourite IG accounts’ livestreams at a normal time and catch up on some recent amazing IG live moments.

Missed Doja Cat re-enacting Roddy Rich’s “The Box” as if it were a Shakespearean play? Wanted to catch up on Netflix’s Instagram Live talkshow about maintaining self-care during self-isolation? Well, now we can. 

Instagram Lives will also soon be able to be viewed on desktop. Meaning, I can continue scrolling and cycling between watching Lizzo’s calmful meditation and Lil Nas X’s stupidly silly IG Lives without my phone reminding me I’ve been on my phone for 8 hours on average a day. Excuse you Apple, I was busy watching Normal People.

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.

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