With Facebook looking to maximize any possible chance of anybody using video chat amid rising demand during COVID-19, The Social Network has this week added the capacity for Instagram users to create Messenger Rooms direct from their Instagram Direct inbox.
Messenger Rooms are, logically, hosted on Messenger, so while you can create a room within Instagram, you’ll still have to switch to Messenger to engage in the video chat. But it does provide another way to use Facebook’s new multi-participant video chat option – though active Rooms won’t be displayed in Instagram, so you won’t be able to use it as a drop-in video chat tool, as it’s designed on Facebook.
Thus far, Messenger Rooms have been a somewhat underwhelming option, though Facebook only just expanded the option to all users last week, so it’s very early days, and Facebook is still likely refining the format and getting everything in line.
In early testing (I’m in Australia, where Rooms has been active for a couple of weeks), I found Rooms to be overly glitchy, while issues with the display format seem likely to cause issues. In particular, the fact that Facebook lists both Rooms and any of your connections that are currently active on Messenger on the same function panel within the app seems to blur the lines between who’s in a Room and who’s simply online, which is a little unclear at a glance.
That could lead to people sending random messages, and annoying connections – or you may end up in one-on-one video chats with people you didn’t really want to chat with, but you tapped because you thought you might say hi in a Room.
If that seems overly specific, it is.
Essentially, Rooms is just a Messenger video call that other people can drop into. Which is all Facebook said it would be, but it still seems a little underwhelming as a product, like Facebook could maybe have done something more. The ability to see random video chats, and drop in to say hi, definitely sounds like a good fit for the current times, but I’m not sure that Rooms, at least at this stage, is the right vehicle for it.
But then again, maybe its more in the application – Facebook has also added Rooms for Groups and Events, which could serve more specific purpose, while it’s also just added Rooms for Workplace, which could help to facilitate discussion with colleagues.
As noted, it still feels too early to make any definitive calls on it, and providing more ways for people to connect into Rooms, and new presentation and/or sharing options, could change things significantly.
For example, what if Facebook only shared Rooms publicly if they had more than three or four active guests? That could then make people feel more comfortable about dropping in, knowing that you won’t end up in a one-on-one chat, while also aligning with the core, group chat purpose.
There’s still more to come from Facebook on this, no doubt – but as of right now, you have a range of ways in which to create your own Room and get started.