What’s the number one requested feature for Facebook’s Messenger service? Apparently, we’re told, it was group video chats, and so today that’s precisely what Facebook has announced for us all. Starting today, you can use video in group chats, and it’s rolling out to Android, iOS and the desktop/web version of Messenger right now.
The algorithm seems pretty intelligent, too, so that your group chat doesn’t just become a hot mess of video participants reminiscent of an old Budweiser commercial. The service is free over WiFi, and will obviously chew your mobile data if you’re not on WiFi, but besides that, there’s no cost. Up to six participants can chat on video at a time, but if your group is a little bigger, don’t worry; they can listen in, participate via voice, or opt to be on camera when a spot opens up. If more than 6 people are on a call, the view adjusts to one akin to Hangouts’ group chat – the dominant speaker is shown, with thumbnails for others.
To get started, look for your group chat or make a new one, then just tap the video icon in the top right corner. Others can join when and if they’re ready, or they can just watch you … which sounds a lot more disturbing now that I write it in words.
Of course, this feature has far more family-friendly uses, and at this time of year, it’s bound to be popular; if you’ve got family spread all around the country like I do, then this will be a great way to get everyone (virtually) in the one place for a bit of Christmas cheer.
The update should be available to you now, or very soon.