Users first have to update the latest WhatsApp Web version in order to create a room shortcut. However, the feature is not available on the mobile app yet.
Once the new AES 256-bit GCM encryption is active, you will see a green shield icon in your video call window to confirm that the conversation is being encrypted with the new standard.
- Last Updated: May 25, 2020, 9:26 AM IST
Zoom, the incredibly popular video meeting app, is asking all users to update to the new Zoom 5.0 version before the end of the month. In an email communication with existing users, Zoom says they must update to the Zoom 5.0 version to take advantage of the new AES 256-bit GCM encryption. This comes at a time when Zoom is seeing usage skyrocket, but concerns remain about the privacy and security issues regarding video calls and user data. Zoom has more than 300 million daily users around the world.
The GCM (Galois/Counter Mode) encryption method will be enabled for all Zoom calls from May 30 onwards, and anyone using a Zoom app version older than Zoom 5 will be unable to join. Zoom had released this update late last month. “Beginning May 30th, 2020, Zoom will be enabling GCM encryption across the entire Zoom platform, providing increased protection for meeting data,” says the email sent to Zoom users.
Till now, Zoom has been using the 128-bit AES keys and with ECB (Electronic Code Book) encryption, which is less secure. Once the new AES 256-bit GCM encryption is active, you will see a green shield icon in your video call window to confirm that the conversation is being encrypted with the new standard. “A new encryption shield appears in the upper left of your Zoom Meeting window and indicates a secure, encrypted meeting. After May 30, the shield will be green for all users, denoting enhanced GCM encryption. Clicking the icon also takes you to the Statistics page for additional encryption details,” says the company. All parties in a Zoom call need to be on the Zoom 5 version of the app for the encryption to work.
Zoom has since also received new features, including the ability to report a user who may be misusing Zoom, updated Leave Now or End Meeting options and select data center regions when scheduling a meeting. Zoom is available for PCs, web browsers, Android devices, Apple iPhone, Apple iPad and Google ChromeOS. At a time when millions around the world are working from home to stay safe from the Coronavirus pandemic, video calling apps are more relevant than ever before. Zoom is competing with the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, Houseparty and more.
Messenger Rooms feature lets you do group video calls with up to 50 people. This comes at a time when video calling apps are a rage and gives Facebook an advantage in terms of a potential user base as it competes with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft’s Skype and more.
- Last Updated: May 17, 2020, 9:47 AM IST
The Facebook Messenger Rooms is now available for WhatsApp for Android, well, at least those users who want to try out the latest beta of the popular instant messaging app. The latest beta incudes the Messenger Rooms feature with lets you do group video calls with up to 50 people. After it became globally available on Facebook or the Messenger app depending on which country you are in, the rollout has now started on WhatsApp as well.
For this, you need to download the WhatsApp for Android beta 2.20.163 on your Android phone. This comes from the ever-reliable folks over at WABetaInfo. This feature is still being activated globally, and you may not initially get it. But have patience, it will happen. If Messenger Rooms is available for you, it will show up as Rooms in the chat sheet in any chat window—the same menu that allows you to share documents, location, contacts and access the gallery on the phone to share photos and videos.
Secondly, if you go to the Calls tab in WhatsApp for Android beta, you will see the Create a Room option when you tap on the calling button to add or dial contacts.
From what we can figure out about the current implementation of Messenger Rooms in WhatsApp, you will still be directed to the Messenger app to continue using the group calling feature. This could be a very smart way of driving more downloads of Facebook’s Messenger app. The requirements of end-to-end encryption could perhaps be the main reason, which is why Facebook has been looking to get all its apps under one encryption family to allow seamless interoperability.
Initially, Messenger Rooms’ that allows up to 50 people in one group video chat, could be accessed via Facebook or Messenger apps and desktop versions and remains free of charge to use. Globally, users can create new Rooms via the Messenger app for the time being, while users in the US can create a room from Facebook. Now, WhatsApp is set to get this feature as well.
It is expected that the WhatsApp beta for the iPhone should also soon get the Messenger Rooms feature, which would mean we are one step closer to the final release for all users globally.
The integration with WhatsApp, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, gives Facebook an advantage in terms of a potential user base as it competes with apps such as Zoom, Microsoft’s Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Houseparty and more.
At this time, Facebook Messenger Rooms will be competing for attention and video meeting hours with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Google Duo, each of those being used for personal as well as work meetings.
- Last Updated: May 15, 2020, 8:56 AM IST
Facebook Messenger Rooms is now rolling out to all users around the world. It is available in desktop and mobile, and the global rollout will surely add some spice to the already very competitive video calls and video meetings app space. Messenger Rooms’ party piece is the fact that it allows up to 50 people in one group video chat, can be accessed via Facebook or Messenger apps and desktop versions and remains free of charge to use. However, do note that globally, users can create new Rooms via the Messenger app for the time being, while users in the US can create a room from Facebook.
Facebook is also pushing the privacy controls that in play here, something that has been a concern for many since the issues with Zoom brought this aspect to the forefront. Facebook says you can start and share Rooms on Facebook through News Feed, Groups and Events. You may drop by for a Group chat whenever it is convenient for you. There are options that let you control who can see your Rooms group and who is allowed to join your room. You can also remove people from your Room if you don’t like them and the Room group can also be locked so that no one else can join at the time.
Facebook says you must download or update to the latest versions of the Facebook and Messenger apps for Android and iPhone or iPad via the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store respectively, or the Messenger Desktop App for Windows 10 PCs via the Microsoft Store and for Apple Mac devices via the Apple App Store. At this time, Facebook Messenger Rooms will be competing for attention and video meeting hours with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Google Duo, each of those being used for personal as well as work meetings.
WhatsApp and mind-boggling numbers go hand in hand. As of February, WhatsApp had crossed 2 billion users worldwide. It is by far the most popular instant messaging app in the world, followed by its own sibling, Facebook Messenger. Chances are everyone you know is using WhatsApp. It is to instant messaging what Xerox is to photocopying. That being said, Facebook isn’t about to let a low hanging fruit get away. WhatsApp could very well be in the prime position to become the default name for the video calling, group calling and video meeting requirements for millions around the world. While the competition remains busy trying to compete with each other.
Look at the traction that the Coronavirus pandemic has translated into. Zoom clarified and said they clocked 300 million users in April. Houseparty, an app owned by Fortnite developer Epic Games, clocked more than two million downloads in early March, as the first stages of the lockdown around the world kicked in. Facebook says video-calling on Messenger had straight doubled since last year. Microsoft has said that there are more than 200 million meeting participants in a single day in April, and there were more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes generated. Teams now has more than 75 million daily active users, confirmed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
WhatsApp builds from a foundation of strength. It has a massive user base, like no other.
Messenger Rooms is one part of the plan
It was just last month that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said how as many as 700 million users around the world are using Messenger and WhatsApp for calls. That’s voice calls and video calls to colleagues, friends and family. It is not surprising then that Facebook wants to do everything to not only keep this user base engaged, but also away from rivals such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype and others. That would be true for the business use case and for personal users as well. What arrived on the scene was Messenger Rooms. It allows a maximum of 50 participants in a group video call. That’s the same limit as Skype’s Skype Now. Even though Zoom offers the ability to get 100 people to join as part of the free subscription tier, WhatsApp has the added advantage of familiarity, almost everyone has it and well, Zoom has been haunted by privacy issues for a while now.
The fact is that Messenger Rooms is so versatile, you can start or join a Rooms chat from Messenger, Facebook, Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, or even the Portal smart display. That is the power and extent of Facebook’s ecosystem of apps truly making their presence felt.
The thing is, when we talk of video calling apps and video conferencing solutions, we immediately visualize a meeting that has 100+ people, all trying to get their message across as part of a corporate jamboree. That is not always the case. More often than not, it is smaller teams that need to connect, for a quick brainstorming session, for a status update, quick guidance or simply to drop in and say hello. For that to work, it is just clunky and ostentatious to have to set up a meeting, share a meeting link and a password and download a separate app on your phone or PC.
Simplicity is what really is WhatsApp’s strongest point here. It is as simple as picking up your phone or opening WhatsApp web, ticking off the list of contacts you want in the meeting and making a call. You spend lesser time on the riffraff. Be it for the Messenger Rooms or for the now more-powerful Group calling.
Simplicity is WhatsApp’s strongest point. It just works.
Group Video Calls are equally brilliant for work and fun
A few days ago, a new update for WhatsApp for Android phones and the Apple iPhones landed with the more powerful group calling feature. Instead of 4, you can now get 8 people on a group voice or video call. “Over the last month, people on average are spending over 15 billion minutes talking each day on WhatsApp calls, well above a typical day before the pandemic, WhatsApp had said at the time. More friends can be part of the social distancing catch-up. More colleagues can join in and share brilliant ideas on how to go about things. This will work even on Android phones or iPhones that are old and not as powerful anymore—it is priceless for those who may still be rocking older smartphones. The same flexibility cannot exactly be vouched for, for the other video meeting apps. Except perhaps FaceTime, which works brilliantly on all iPhones, no matter how old.
All that being said, it is still lesser than 32 participants that Apple FaceTime allows, the 12-person limit that Google Duo now has and Skype which supports 50 participants. If that really a limitation? Perhaps not.
End to End Encryption remains its strongest suite
If you don’t really want a scenario where the privacy of your calls is not exactly a certainty and the promises sound a bit dodge, chances are you’ll stay away from Zoom. In that regard, WhatsApp has pushed the end-to-end encryption capabilities extensively over time. “And just like written messages, all those calls are protected with end-to-end encryption,” they did the same with the new group calling too.
In fact, Messenger Rooms will also have end-to-end encryption enabled for all calls. Simply put, it makes it extremely unlikely that anyone will able to eavesdrop on your conversation as it traverses the depths of the world wide web, without your knowledge.
With Rooms and Group Calling, Facebook’s idea is simple. It is not to try and be the platform that tries to appeal to casual users, small groups, smaller teams, medium sized meetings and large enterprises—basically redevelop the app to a one-size fits all. It is to be versatile enough for different use cases, and that is where the volumes could very well be.
Facebook’s idea for WhatsApp is not to be a one-size fits all. It is to be versatile enough for different use cases
WhatsApp builds from a foundation of strength. It has a massive user base, like no other. It has usage statistics and insights that tell exactly how people use video calling and group calling features. It has something for pretty much everyone now.
Ads in WhatsApp are coming, no two ways about it
While WhatsApp is like no other instant messaging app in the world, it does have one glaring shortcoming. From the business side of things. It doesn’t make money for Facebook. It has to be monetized at some stage. That is how a business makes financial sense. There has been talk for a while now that ads would eventually make their way into the WhatsApp app. It hasn’t happened so far, but don’t bet on the status quo for too long. Ads in WhatsApp Status could be the start. How Facebook manages opening doors to its platform for advertisers and yet be able to secure user data privacy is a matter for another debate.
That is where Facebook’s plan to unify WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook with one encryption platform could help.
WhatsApp Pay could provide the big boost
Last but not least is the final piece of the jigsaw for WhatsApp. Digital payments. This will be particularly good in developing economies such as India, where mobile based payments are a big deal. The much-awaited UPI mobile payments service got the approvals from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in February, for what will be a phased roll-out. The first phase will mean 10 million users. This will also fit in perfectly with the Government of India’s push for digital payments, as part of the Digital India mission.
Facebook surely has Paytm, the incredibly popular mobile payments and shopping platform, in its sights. As of August, Paytm had planned an injection of Rs 750 crore to clock 250 million monthly users by the end of the financial year. That is the user demographic that Facebook will be looking at. It won’t be a challenge to find these users though, because chances are high that almost every single one of these 250 million Paytm users will also have WhatsApp installed on their phones.
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