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Telegram gets group video calls, animations

The encrypted-messaging app serves up some new features.

A group video call Telegram-style, on a tablet.

You look marvelous. A group video call Telegram-style, on a tablet.

Telegram; screenshot by CNET

Encrypted-messaging app Telegram added several new features this week, including group video calls. "Voice chats in any group can now seamlessly turn into group video calls -- just tap the camera icon to switch your video on," the company said in a blog post Friday.

You can tap a video to have it go full screen, and you can pin a video to keep it in the key position as other people hop onto the call. For now, group video calls top out at 30 people, but that limit will increase soon, Telegram said. You can share your screen as well. The feature is available on all devices, including desktops and tablets.

Telegram also added animated backgrounds and message animations, the company said in another post. "Meet animated backgrounds for chats -- first time in a messaging app!" it said. "These multi-color gradient wallpapers are generated algorithmically and move beautifully every time you send a message."

You can get at them through Settings. In iOS, it's Appearance / Chat Background. In Android, it's Chat Settings / Change Chat Background. You can also create your own backgrounds by fiddling with colors, patterns and other settings.

The message animations include emojis that blink, drool, stick out a tongue, and lots more. For details, check out Telegram's post about group video calls and its post about animated backgrounds and message animations.

Telegram saw a surge in new users earlier this year after Tesla CEO and Twitter enthusiast Elon Musk sent tweets urging followers to drop Facebook-owned WhatsApp over recent privacy policy changes.

Read more: Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram: All the major security differences between messaging apps