Facebook Inc. (FB) on Friday released its new video chat feature joining a string of tech companies seeking to tap the booming demand for video-conferencing offerings triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.
The social network company disclosed Messenger Rooms, an invitation-based video calling feature, which can hold up to 50 participants with no time limit so people can drop in and spend time with friends, family and others. Rooms can be found via Facebook friends, groups and events at the top of the news feed. Until now, Facebook messenger video calls were limited to 8 participants. Messenger Rooms is this week rolling out in some countries and Facebook expects the feature to expand to the rest of the world in coming weeks.
To preserve privacy, users can lock or unlock a call, block participants or report any violations of standards. Furthermore, the company doesn’t have any access to users’ rooms through their Facebook account or as a guest.
“Lately Facebook has felt the demand for real-time video,” the company said in a blog statement. “Between WhatsApp and Messenger, more than 700 million accounts participate in calls every day.”
The social network provider said that in March in many countries, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled, and views of Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos increased significantly.
Stay-at-home orders during lockdowns in many countries around the world has ramped up demand for popular video-conference platforms such as rival Zoom Video Communications (ZM), which has seen its daily active users soaring to 300 million from about 10 million before the coronavirus outbreak. On April 16, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) agreed to buy video-conferencing company BlueJeans Network Inc.
Moreover, Facebook is also expanding WhatsApp group video and voice calls to allow up to 8 people from 4 previously. In addition, it is introducing video chats in Facebook Dating in coming months.
There are now over 800 million daily active users across Facebook and Instagram Live, the social media giant said, adding that is planning to roll out new features.
Facebook shares advanced 2.7% to close at $190.07 in U.S. trading on Friday. Shares of Zoom Video Communication dropped 6% to $158.80.
Wall Street analysts have a bullish call on Facebook shares. Thirty-six out of thirty-eight analysts have a Buy recommendation on the stock with the remainder split between 1 Hold and 1 Sell adding up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. The average price target of $222.41 implies a potential gain of 17% in the coming 12 months. (See Facebook stock analysis on TipRanks).