Facebook today announced that its Messenger app is now capable of performing group video calls with up to 50 participants. For the first six participants, the app will stream everyone’s camera feed to one another in a grid-like view. After six, Messenger will display only the dominant speaker’s feed. That makes Messenger’s video chat feature one of the more robust options in the industry, seeing as how both Google Hangouts and Microsoft Skype have 10-person limits on their consumer products. The addition of video chat follows an April update that first added group calling to Messenger. Prior to that add-on, Facebook’s app was only capable of making one-on-one audio calls.
The social network is clearly interested in capturing both consumers and, with the recent launch of its Work software, office employees who do a fair amount of telecommuting and video conferencing. To that end, workplace chat app Slack beat Facebook to the punch, adding video chat just last week. In the mobile space, Facebook is dealing with a whole other breed of competitor. Snapchat added video calling earlier this year, while WhatsApp just made the feature available widely to the public last month. Still, Facebook’s engineering capabilities on this front appear to be far ahead of other players in the video chat field.
Facebook says the update is rolling out today globally for both iOS and Android. While video chatting, the company stresses that Messenger’s other functions remain intact. So you can still send texts, stickers, and other animations while video and audio are transmitting. There is also one notable iOS-only feature: live masks. Similar to Snapchat filters that animate a visual overlay over your face in real time, Facebook’s live masks will go one step further and augment the live video chat with whatever goofy animation you’d like to place on the screen. The company says the feature should be arriving on Android soon.
Corrections: An earlier version of this article misstated the capabilities of Messenger’s new video call function. Up to 50 people, not six, can stream both video and audio simultaneously. However, only the dominant speaker will have their video feed streamed after six participants have joined a call. And Google Hangouts’ consumer limit on video chat participants is 10, not 25, people. We regret the errors.