Messenger launches 6-screen group video chat with selfie masks

Published On: December 21, 2016 11:45 PM NPT

Teen app sensation Houseparty will get some competition as Facebook Messenger is launching its own split-screen group video chat feature. Six users can appear in split-screen at the time and don Snapchat-style selfie masks, while 50 total can listen and talk over voice while sending text, stickers, emojis, and GIFs.

The feature could make a Messenger a place to ‘livechill’ with friends rather than just a way to send texts to exchange more utilitarian information or plan logistics. Instead of just popping in to fire off messages, you could hang out for extended periods on the app. Facebook frames it as ‘perfect for those spontaneous moments where text just isn’t enough’.

Group video chat starts rolling out worldwide on iOS, Android, and web, today, though Android will have to wait for the MSQRD-powered selfie masks that might not ever come to desktop. It’s free on wi-fi but standard data charges will apply on cellular connections.

We’ve been anticipating this launch since Messenger released one-on-one video calling in April 2015 and group audio calling a year later. 245 million people make video calls on Messenger each month already, so this feature could see rapid adoption.

The launch makes Messenger the first popular western messaging app with group video chat. It’s managed to beat FaceTime/iMessage, Google Duo, and Snapchat to the punch. Google’s neglected Hangouts app launched many of these features back in 2013, but it hasn’t become a core place for text messaging, making it more of a specialty app amongst Google’s fragmented communication family.

By embracing group video chat, Messenger becomes more of a communication destination rather than just a sporadically used tool. Along with its Active Now feature, we could see it becoming more of its own full-fledged real-time social network, while Facebook proper becomes a hub for consuming existing content.


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