Instant messaging and live video were all the rage in the mobile landscape this year. Combine the two into a single app and you get the best of both worlds. That’s what Facebook has done with its Messenger app: The social networking site’s instant messaging service now lets you video chat with up to 50 users at the same time.
Facebook Messenger’s new group video chat feature allows the initial six users to appear in split-screen simultaneously with Snapchat-style selfie masks. Once participants exceed six people, only the dominant speaker will appear on the video stream and up to 50 users can stream both video and audio. Users can video chat while also sending texts, emojis, stickers and GIFs at the same time.
The new feature is billed as “perfect for those spontaneous moments where text just isn’t enough.” With that in mind, Facebook clearly wants to make Messenger a place to chill out with friends and colleagues. Facebook Messenger has historically been known as an instant messaging service but with the its new video chat feature, the service now aims to accommodate users for extended periods on the app.
Facebook is rolling out the group video chat feature globally across multiple platforms including iOS, Android and the web. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Android devices need the MSQRD-powered selfie masks. Video chatting is free over Wi-Fi while video conferences made using cellular connections will count against your data plan.
Facebook Messenger introduced a video calling service in April 2015, though the feature is limited to one-on-one calls. Earlier this year, the group audio calling feature was added to the app. Facebook said the addition of video chat for multiple people is in response to popular demand. According to stats, 245 million people use Messenger to make video calls every month.