Facebook’s Messenger Rooms take on Zoom and Houseparty

Facebook is launching a service that lets you chat with friends even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

With , Facebook is bringing the idea up to current standards and going big. The service will “soon” let up to 50 people video-chat at a time, with a grid-style view akin to ’s familiar look. Rather than making you place a call and hope that your friends are available right then to answer it Rooms will allow people to enter and leave at any time; a room can stay open indefinitely. It has the requisite augmented-reality special effects such as virtual bunny ears, mood lighting, and 360-degree fake backgrounds that can transplant you from your living room to the beach.

As Zoom has seen explosive growth and been adopted by consumers as well as its intended customer base of business users its security and privacy travails have tarnished its sudden fame. Most notoriously, uninvited guests have been Zoombombing video session with trouble in mind. To help keep users in control of the rooms they create, Facebook is offering settings such as the ability to limit attendees to your friends or the members of a group you administer. Room creators will be able to bounce troublemakers, and rooms get locked when a creator leaves. “We obviously worked a lot on privacy controls, making sure people understand how the whole thing works,” says Chudnovsky.

Still, a room can have a link that lets anyone in, including people who not only aren’t your Facebook friends but aren’t Facebook members at all. If such a link gets into the wrong hands maybe because someone you shared it with shares it promiscuously it could lead to Roombombing. Facebook knows that: Its introductory materials for Rooms explain that “It’s important to know that if a room is unlocked, anyone with the link can join and share the link with others.” But if people forget this and trolls take advantage, it seems likely that Facebook will get the blame.

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