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Facebook Messenger launches a new desktop app so you can video chat on a bigger screen

The social network says more people are using their desktop browser for audio and video calling on Messenger.

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Facebook has seen a surge in video calls during the coronavirus outbreak.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook Messenger said Thursday it's launching a new desktop app, a move that comes as more people are using the social network's messaging service for calls since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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Group video chatting has increased on Facebook Messenger.

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You can already use Messenger on a desktop browser by logging into the main social network, but now there's a separate desktop app. The new product is an example of how Facebook has been responding to the surge in video and audio calls as more people are staying at home and practicing social distancing

It could also help the company compete with other services people use for video chatting including Zoom, Apple's FaceTime, Google's Hangouts and Microsoft-owned Skype. Zoom has faced a number of security and privacy concerns as trolls disrupt calls with pornography or harass users.

"Now more than ever, people are using technology to stay in touch with the people they care about, even when physically apart," said Stan Chudnovsky, who heads Facebook Messenger, in a blog post.

Over the past month, Facebook saw a more than 100% increase in people using their desktop browser for audio and video calling on Messenger, the company said. Users can download the app on the Microsoft Store or Mac App Store. Group video calls are free and unlimited. The desktop app has the same features as the mobile app, including dark mode, GIFs and notifications.

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