Facebook announced today that group video chat is now available via its Messenger app. Stephane Taine, the Product Manager for Facebook Messenger, said in a press release that group chap is “rolling out” worldwide today on Android, iOS, and desktop platforms.
“As we close the year, we’re thrilled to launch the most requested Messenger feature ever – the ability to video chat in groups,” Taine said. “Group Video Chat in Messenger makes it simple and seamless to stay connected face-to-face.”
Skype and other free video chat services have become increasingly popular in recent years. Skype has approximately 300 million active users, according to the statistics website Statista.
— Recode (@Recode) December 19, 2016
If the new Facebook Messenger group video chat option is a success — and Facebook obviously has a generally successful track record when it comes to launching new features — then the social media giant’s 1.7 billion users could pull some traffic from Skype.
Skype does, however, still have a couple of advantages over Facebook Messenger when it comes to group video chats. For instance, up to 10 people can video chat at once on Skype, while only six can do so on Facebook Messenger. Most people probably won’t try to orchestrate a 10-person group chat, but doing so can definitely come in handy in professional settings for video conferences.
Users need the latest version of Facebook Messenger to use the new group video chat feature. Beyond that, it is a pretty straightforward and intuitive feature.
“All you have to do is jump into an existing group conversation, or create a new one,” Taine explains. “Then tap on the video icon on the upper right of the screen to enter the video chat and everyone in the group will be notified. Each person can join when they are ready with just one tap.”
If you need to give someone in the group an “extra nudge” to get them active in the video chat, you can directly call individual users or the entire group while in the video chat, Taine adds.
There’s also an option for iOS users to don 3D masks while video chatting. The feature will be added to the Android platform soon, according to the Facebook press release.
— SAF International (@SAF_Intl) December 9, 2016
Competition in the video chat market has been heating up recently.
The messenger app Kik added a group video chat feature on Monday, USA Today‘s Jessica Guynn reports. Earlier this month, the Japanese messaging app Line launched an impressive (or perhaps ridiculous) feature that allows users to chat with up to 200 people at once. Houseparty and Fam are two other popular messaging services that offer group video chat. Fam has been downloaded over 1 million times since it was launched in early December, according to Guynn.
Many of the companies, including Facebook, that recently launched group video chat options say it was the most requested feature.
In a surprising move, Snapchat has not jumped on board with group video chat yet. Snapchat is one of the more popular social media services used today.
Users can expect messaging apps to be adding more and more features in the near future.
“All communications platforms seem to steadily get richer along two dimensions,” Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, told USA Today. “They typically start with text and one-to-one communication, and then add richness of content and multi-person communication over time. So you get photo sharing and video calling over time, and then you also get multi-person phone calling and video calling over time too.”
[Featured image by Facebook/Press Release]