With Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve days away, cell towers will soon be jammed with video calls. Facebook Inc. is powering up its Messenger app in hopes that people choose it over its competitors. On Monday, Facebook updated Messenger on Apple Inc.’s iOS, Alphabet Inc.’s Android operating systems and the desktop web, adding six-way video calling.
WITH THE UPDATE IN PLACE UP TO SIX PEOPLE CAN SEE EACH OTHER LIVE WHILE CHATTING
With the update in place, up to six people can see each other live while chatting. But you can invite a larger group, up to 50. In that case, only the person speaking at the time will be seen. If several are speaking at once, the loudest will be seen.
Group video calling sets Facebook Messenger apart from Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp, as well as Snap Inc.’s Snapchat, Apple’s FaceTime and Google Duo. These all allow users to communicate one to one.
You can start a group video call in a pre-existing group text chat, using a camera icon in the upper right corner. If you want to start a new group call, just tap the “Calls” button on the bottom of the app, then select “Start group call.” You will have the option to start the call in either video or voice. People you call will receive a notification and be able to join in on the video chat whenever they are ready.
The feature doesn’t have anything to do with Facebook Live streaming, which lets users broadcast live video to their Facebook friends and followers, introduced earlier this year. That will remain limited to one live video feed.