Facebook wants to take on Zoom with Messenger Rooms

The social network is trying to spice up its platform for the quarantined world and stake its claim in the video calls turf war.

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Outings are still on indefinite pause. As people try to adjust to life under lockdowns around the world, social networks are coming up with virtual solutions for the bored and stressed. To this end, Facebook has announced it will introduce Messenger Rooms (remember Yahoo! chat rooms?), virtual dating options for prospective lovebirds, and enhanced features for Live.

None of these additions mean that Facebook has finally addressed complaints about its data collection and ad targeting policies. It's still struggling with COVID-19 pseudoscience. But if it helps cooped people find something to do, it's a positive development — for now.

Messenger Rooms for everyone — The company has launched Messenger Rooms that practically anyone can join. Even if you don't have a Facebook account, the feature will work for you as long as you have the link for the room. The link can also be shared in your News Feed, Groups, and Event pages on Facebook, of course. It seems to be a hit among those who've already tried the feature.

According to Facebook, Janet Sanchez, who is an admin for the "Esposas Militares Hispanas!! USA Armed Forces!" Facebook group, says, "We’re busier than ever now because so many of our troops are stuck in another country and unable to travel until further notice.

"This puts a huge burden on our families and moms who have their hands full but also feel isolated," Sanchez adds. "Messenger Rooms would be a wonderful way for our community to connect face to face and share stories and give support in a more personalized way so that our members don’t feel so alone."

Get creative with your background — Facebook is pretty interested in augmented reality. From now on, when you use Messenger, you will have the ability to try Facebook's artificial intelligence-powered effects during video calls. The company says users can try scenic backdrops, vibrant colors, and wide-ranging environments. You can do the same on the controversy-riddled Zoom, of course, so the question really is, do you trust it or Facebook more?

WhatsApp group calls expanded — The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, is also expected to expand the number of people you can have on a group call. Facebook says these calls will support up to eight people at one time.

Virtual dating — Nearly every dating app has urged its users to limit activities that take place outside. Facebook's dating service is no exception. To make romance a little more feasible and fluid, the company is announcing virtual date chats through video calls. Though few things make us feel less romantic than Facebook. Allowing it a role in our love lives downright fills us with dread.

Since the deadly pandemic outbreak, Facebook has been trying to entice more users to its platform. It's even tried to be more transparent about certain location data practices. But major and disturbing problems remain, including millions of Facebook users' information being sold on the dark web. This is to say: a Messenger Room sounds nice. Who doesn't like to party with their friends? But a tighter policy around privacy sounds even better.