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Messenger Rooms: Here's how to use Facebook's free new video chat feature

With Facebook's Zoom competitor, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit.

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Facebook Messenger Rooms is set to compete with Zoom and other group video chat apps.

Facebook

Facebook's new group video chat feature Messenger Rooms is now available, and is ready to compete with services like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, as more people turn to video chat during coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines

You can create a video chat room via Facebook or the Messenger app and invite up to 50 people to join a video call -- even if they don't have a Facebook account. There are no time limits on calls. 

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Messenger Rooms arrives as some people are looking for an alternative to Zoom, which has faced a number of security and privacy issues in the past two months. (If you're still using Zoom, you can take steps to lock down your meetings and prevent Zoombombing, and learn other hidden tips and tricks.)

Facebook Messenger Rooms began rolling out in certain countries earlier in May before expanding globally last week. Keep reading for Facebook Messenger Rooms' stance on privacy, and how to get started using the new video chat platform.

Read more: Facebook Messenger Rooms vs. Zoom: Which video-chat app is better?

Facebook Messenger Rooms privacy concerns

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Facebook

While Facebook has also grappled with many security and privacy problems, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a livestream earlier this month that the company has been "very careful" and tried to "learn the lessons" from issues with other video conference tools in recent months. 

More than 700 million accounts participate in voice and video calls every day on Facebook Messenger and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, and the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began, the company said in a press release.

Messenger Rooms privacy protections include the ability to control who sees your room, and can lock or unlock it. If it's unlocked, anyone with the link can join and share the room with others. But the room creator has to be present to start the call. They can control who can join, and can remove participants at any time, too. People can report a room for violating Facebook rules -- though those reports will not include any video or audio from the call. Facebook doesn't listen to your calls at all, the company said. 

Read more: 10 free Zoom alternative apps for video chats

How to create a Facebook Messenger Room

To create a room from your phone, make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store. Then follow these steps:

1. Open the Messenger app.

2. Tap the People tab at the bottom right of the screen. 

3. Tap Create a Room, and select the people who you want to join. 

4. To share a room with people who don't have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups and Events. 

You can join a room from your phone or computer -- no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

Facebook plans to add ways to create Rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and the Portal smart display as well. Features will include 14 camera filters and changeable backgrounds. 

For more, check out 11 video chat app tricks for Zoom, Skype and FaceTime and how to stay healthy and entertained at home during the COVID-19 pandemic