Facebook Announces Video Calls for Up to 50 People - Zoom Shares Tank

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a number of new features aimed at facilitating communication during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video address on Facebook  (FB) - Get Report on Friday afternoon, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a slew of new features intended to assist Facebook users seeking to connect with friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Zuckerberg focused largely on new features related to video calling and messaging, and among those announcements was the ability to include up to 50 people in a video call. 

Shares of Zoom  (ZM) - Get Report, which has seen a surge in usage of its group video-calling product during the pandemic, were down as much as 7% in the minutes following Zuckerberg's announcement and closed the day with a decline of 6.1%. Facebook shares rose on Wednesday following its announcement and finished the day up 2.7% to $190.07. 

Facebook's free group video calling feature is dubbed Messenger Rooms and expands the number of possible participants to 50 with no time limit.

Zoom's free video calling product can hold up to 100 people with a 40-minute time limit, and that number increases to 1,000 people with no time limit for a paid enterprise version. 

Zuckerberg reiterated that Facebook has seen a spike in demand across its various products, largely video calls and messaging, saying that video calls have increased by a factor of 10 in some areas, and that Portal -- Facebook's video calling device, widely considered a sales disappointment to date -- has seen a 10x increase in demand as well.

Unlike competing video calling services, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams meetings or Google Hangouts, Messenger Rooms is designed to facilitate more "spontaneous" calls among Facebook friends, Zuckerberg said, and can be launched through Messenger or core Facebook. The company also previewed an expansion of WhatsApp video calls for up to 8 participants, 

Video rooms will soon expand to Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, according to a Facebook blog post

Along with Messenger Rooms, Zuckerberg also announced a wide range of other new capabilities across video calls, video rooms, and live broadcasts both on Facebook and Instagram. 

Between WhatsApp and Messenger, more than 700 million accounts participate in calls every day, according to Facebook, and views of both Instagram Live and Facebook Live "increased significantly" in March. 

The company also launched a desktop version of Instagram Live, expanded its children's app Messenger Kids, and previewed a "virtual date" feature within Messenger. And it reintroduced a "live with" feature that adds a second participant to live broadcasts, and added a number of new enhancements to Facebook Gaming. 

Zuckerberg's Friday announcements were the first in a series of updates the company promised in lieu of its annual F8 developer event, which it cancelled over concerns about the pandemic. 

Year to date, Facebook shares are down 9% on concerns about the coronavirus' impact on its ad revenue.

Weeks ago, Facebook cautioned investors that its March quarter revenue will fall short of prior forecasts, noting that much of the increased usage of Facebook is occurring on less well-monetized products such as messaging and video. 

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