Facebook launches group watching on Messenger, a few months late

Easy to use and integrated into the core Messenger app. Just one catch: you can only watch Facebook videos on it.

Facebook, always just a few minutes late to the party, is launching a group-watching feature for Messenger. Called Watch Together, the feature allows users to tune into Facebook Watch together and stream videos alongside their video chat bubbles.

The feature will be a welcome addition for those who already use Messenger as their choice of platform to stay in touch with friends while staying distant to curb the spread of COVID-19. If you don’t already use Messenger or choose to watch your videos on other platforms like Netflix and Hulu, you’re out of luck with this one.

It’s also a bit puzzling why this feature took so long to come to fruition. At the height of the pandemic, the world was clamoring for ways to stay connected and, in particular, to watch movies and television together from the safety of self-isolation. We could’ve used this much more just a few months ago.

Easy to use, at least — Facebook’s Watch Together feature has one great thing going for it: it’s incredibly easy to use. Its functionality is baked right into the core Messenger app, which means billions of people around the world already have it installed and ready to go.

In order to launch a Watch Together session, you just start a Messenger video call or Messenger Rooms call and swipe up to access the “Watch Together” option. You can then search through or browse Facebook Watch for a video to view with those on the call — up to eight on a regular Messenger call or up to 50 in Rooms.

Watch Together will likely see a fair amount of use simply because it is so easy to set up. Much of the software available for watching with friends takes some amount of set-up or technical savvy to get started — the average user will be very drawn to the few clicks it takes to get Watch Together up and running.

Late to the party — Facebook, oh Facebook, our mighty social media overlords: why did it take you so long to bring this feature to our screens? We’re now more than half a year into this pandemic and all you’ve done to help us “stay connected” is force our Instagram DMs to become Messenger messages, continue to profit from hate, and, of course, make plenty of empty promises about misinformation.

Watch Together is also severely limited by its video options. Sure, you can watch the drama unfold on Red Table Talk or a near-endless stream of Tasty videos, but there’s no option to connect the feature to other popular streaming sites or to use local video. Facebook only wants you to watch videos together if those videos are going to pad its pockets.

Anyway, if you’re interested in watching Facebook videos with your friends, the feature is rolling out globally this week in Messenger and Messenger Rooms for both iOS and Android.