Everyone wants a piece of the growing video calling market, and you can attribute that to the ongoing pandemic. Facebook has now entered the game with Messenger Rooms. A new group video calling and chatting app that wants to capitalize on Facebook's large user base. Rooms is Facebook's answer to Zoom, a runaway, albeit controversial, video conferencing app that is arguably growing at breakneck speed.
Interestingly, both Zoom and Facebook have been in the news for their poor security and data handling. And yet, they are used by millions of users across the world. In this post, we will compare these two video calling apps and find out everything there is to know about them.
1. User Interface
Messenger Rooms is part of the Facebook Messenger app. You need a Facebook account to create rooms which most of us already have. That makes it so easy to join or create Messenger Rooms. I hope you know enough about Messenger and how it works. For those who don't, here's a quick rundown.
There are two tabs at the bottom. The Chats tab will let you view all recent individual and group chats. The People tab will let you view all your Facebook contacts with the ones who are online at the top. The People tab is divided into two parts. One is Active, and the other one is Stories, where you can view updates, just like on Instagram and WhatsApp.
You will find the Create a Room option in the Active tab under People. Just tap on it once to create a room. The UI is easy and uncluttered. Lack of too many options makes it quick and less confusing for less savvy users.
You need the Zoom app to attend a meeting, which doesn't require you to have a Zoom account. However, you'll have to sign up for the service if you plan to host meetings. The user interface is pretty simple with four tabs at the bottom. You can create or join meetings in Meet & Chat.
The second tab is Meetings, where you will find your personal meeting room (PMI) ID. Share it carefully because anyone can use it to connect with you anytime. Finally, there are Contacts and Settings tabs, which are self-explanatory.
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2. Creating, Joining, Managing a Room
We saw how creating a room in Messenger Rooms is easy. You can choose to disable the video only after creating a Messenger room and not in advance. The option is visible at the top of the screen. Tap on Edit button at the bottom to determine who can join the room — anyone with a link or only those who are on Facebook.
I am happy that Facebook is not restricting participation to Facebook users. You can share your room on your Facebook feed, page, group, and events too, allowing anyone to join without inviting or intruding anyone's privacy.
Tap on the SHARE LINK button to send an invite using different options like mail, messenger apps, or mail.
During the group video calls, you'll see bunch of AR effects and filters that you can use. Tap the smiley icon to begin fooling around.
That signals a more casual approach from Facebook. The company isn't targeting enterprise users yet. That is a surprise considering Facebook already targets businesses with its products like Pages and Workplace.
To join a Zoom room, you will need the meeting room ID. You can also schedule a meeting and share it with others who can then add it to their calendars. You can share your screen on both Zoom and Messenger Rooms, but Zoom has more tricks up its sleeves. You can co-annotate with screen sharing in Zoom, and it even has a whiteboard (useful for discussions) function.
Once you tap on New Meeting and invite everyone through a link or code, you will see the Share button. You can also share files from popular cloud storage platforms.
Zoom is more flexible with options like managing participants, changing meeting settings in real-time, and chat feature. Well, you can also chat and share files in the Messenger app, but only local images and videos can be attached. No cloud storage support there.
On the flip side, there are no AR effects and filters in Zoom. It takes a more professional approach. Zoom allows up to 100 participants in the free plan alone, which is exactly double what Messenger Rooms offers. Group video calls are restricted to 40-minutes though. Messenger Rooms has no such restrictions. We will discuss paid plans later.
Facebook says that you can use 'immersive backgrounds and mood lighting' though I couldn't find any way to do so. Maybe in a future update? Anyone can join Rooms without even having to download anything. You do need an account to create a room, as we saw earlier. No more than 50 participants are allowed at the moment. I think this number will increase soon as Facebook is advertising Rooms for webinars, live content, and more that can attract a larger audience.
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3. Key Differences
We saw how Messenger Rooms is more suited for casual users with AR effects and filters. Zoom is more focused on business users with collaboration tools like sharing, whiteboard, and cloud storage integration.
Messenger Rooms will let you show what's on your screen during a group video call like that cool move in your favorite game. Unlike Messenger Rooms, Zoom is not just for communicating but also collaborating. That's a key difference.
Another difference is how group calls and chats are handled. You can chat in the Messenger app without creating a room. Rooms is sort of an add-on that builds up on the group video calling feature. In the case of Zoom, you need to create a room first. Only then members can take part in group video calls and group chats. Messenger keeps both these features separate. They are independent of each other, just like in WhatsApp, where you can chat without having to call and vice versa.
4. Security and Privacy Concerns
Messenger Rooms offer little in terms of security features. You have to create a Facebook account that requires verification, but anyone with a link can join unless the room is locked by the creator. There is an option to remove existing participants or block them. Facebook says the company doesn't listen to your calls, but there is no clarity on whether they are encrypted either.
Zoom has been ramping up its security lately, especially since the zoombombing and hacking scandals. Some additional features like meeting code, waiting rooms, and strong encryption offer better security and privacy.
5. Platform and Pricing
Zoom is available on the web and all popular mobile and desktop platforms and has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Then there are plugins for email clients like Outlook. The Messenger app, of which Rooms is part of, is available on the web and Android and iOS. No desktop clients.
Facebook says Messenger Rooms will pretty soon work with Instagram and WhatsApp too. That will make it easier for people to join rooms and connect irrespective of the app they are using. And these are some of the most used apps in the world with a user base running in billions. Facebook didn't share a timeline to expect those changes.
Messenger Rooms is completely free to use. The free plan of Zoom offers way more features like up to 100 participants, screen sharing, whiteboard, and annotation, but group calls cannot exceed 40 minutes. Pricing begins at $14.99, which is more suitable for teams and enterprise users with no limit on call minutes.
The Elephant in the Room
Facebook Messenger Rooms is more suitable for personal use where you did like to connect with friends and family members. Zoom is more suitable for holding team meetings or even public webinars, thanks to the large number of participants that it supports and the code-based invite system it follows.
Facebook's Messenger Rooms will find its users, and with the WhatsApp and Instagram integration on the horizon, it may well have a winner.
Looking for more Zoom alternatives? Here are not one but seven video conferencing and meeting apps that directly compete with Zoom. Click on the link below to learn more about them.
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