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.
The move bolsters Facebook’s efforts to grab a share of the coronavirus-driven boom in demand for video conferencing services which has turned Zoom Video Communications Inc into a household name.
- Last Updated: July 24, 2020, 11:15 AM IST
Facebook Inc said on Thursday it was rolling out a feature that would allow users to broadcast live a video call with up to 50 people. Users can invite people to join “Messenger Rooms”, including those who do not have a Facebook account, for group video calls and then broadcast the room live on any profile, page or group on the platform, the company said.
The move bolsters Facebook’s efforts to grab a share of the coronavirus-driven boom in demand for video conferencing services, which has turned Zoom Video Communications Inc into a household name. Other technology companies have rolled out similar features to attract users, with Alphabet Inc’s Google allowing users to host free video conferences on Meet.
Facebook said it was rolling out the feature in some countries on its platform and Messenger web starting Thursday and would soon expand to all countries where Messenger Rooms was available. Live broadcasts from Facebook pages doubled in June compared with a year earlier due to a jump in live streams since March, when several countries began imposing lockdowns and social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Gmail app will soon be very different from what you know of it. At least so far. Google says that in the coming weeks, G Suite users will get a more powerful version of the app that includes Gmail, Chat, Rooms and Meet in an attempt to make it a unified app for all Google communication platforms. This follows what Google has been attempting to do over the past few weeks when it integrated Meet into Gmail for iOS, Android and the web as well as integrating Google Chat in Gmail for the web. Google also confirms that Chat will also be integrated in Gmail for all users on Android and iOS as well, soon.
While you may be well versed with Gmail already, Chat, Rooms and Meet might be a bit confusing for those who aren’t already using them extensively. Chat allows you to message individuals or small groups of people. Meet is designed more for larger meetings where people can view and join—much like how Zoom and Microsoft Teams work, for instance. And then there is Rooms, which is more for shared projects with a chat feature integrated.
G Suite users will get a more powerful version of the app that includes Gmail, Chat, Rooms and Meet, sometime in the coming weeks
At the same time, Google says they are enhancing the collaboration features in Chat rooms by adding shared files and tasks. “With quick access to shared chat, important documents, and to-dos in one place, it’s easier for everyone in a group to stay on the same page. Plus, Chat lets you create rooms that include people outside your company, like contractors or consultants, so your group can be not only cross-functional but also cross-organizational,” says Javier Soltero, Vice President & GM, G Suite at Google.
This may further make the distinction between Chat and Rooms, but Google is clearly attempting to leverage all the tools in its arsenal as it competes with the Microsoft which has the Microsoft 365 suite that includes the Teams communication platform. Google also says that picture-in-picture video calls will soon be a part of Gmail, and Google Meet will soon be integrated will also see integrations with Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Google says this comes based on feedback from users about having to switch between apps to get work done, something they say interrupts the workflow. There will also be the option to enable Do Not Disturb when you are really running short of patience and calmness and also status messages such as “Out of office” to let people know they shouldn’t disturb you at the time.
The changes for G Suite users will be rolled out in the coming weeks, though not much changes for the consumer version of the Gmail app, at least for the time being.
Google is attempting to unify its arsenal of communication tools as it competes with Microsoft 365 and Zoom
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WhatsApp may be testing a way to bring back the direct camera shortcut in its latest WhatsApp for Android beta versions 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. The camera shortcut was a ubiquitous presence in the shortcut menu of WhatsApp chat attachments, and was removed subsequently in previous versions. Now, on June 26, WABetaInfo reported that the camera shortcut was brought back to the application in the Android version of WhatsApp beta, which would have allowed users to directly access the camera from the slide-out attachment menu. Unfortunately, the same appears to have been removed in a following beta update, 22.214.171.124, dated yesterday, June 27.
At the moment, tapping on the attachment clip beside the chat window opens up a menu, from where users can add documents, upload photos from gallery, make payments (via UPI, for eligible users/regions), attach pre-recorded audio clips, share contacts as well as live location. The camera shortcut appeared to have been removed after WhatsApp integrated its parent company Facebook’s latest video conferencing service, Messenger Rooms, into the attachments menu. The intermittent reappearance of the camera feature may suggest that WhatsApp may not have completely gotten rid of a direct camera shortcut already, but is working on how best to integrate the new features into one attachments pane.
WhatsApp’s beta software is typically a great indication of features expected in the stable version of the app in the coming days. This year, WhatsApp’s big new feature is expected to be support for running one WhatsApp account on multiple devices, particularly phones. WhatsApp may also be soon adding the ability to search for messages by date, which can be a very useful feature for those who use the service at workplaces. Among ancillary features, while WhatsApp beta for Android appears to have removed the camera shortcut yet again, it will be interesting to see what strategy does WhatsApp adopt in the long run. At the time of writing, WhatsApp for Android in India has neither the camera option, and nor the option for video conferencing via Messenger Rooms.
A starry sky, out on a barren stretch of land, stretched out in the open under the vast nothingness. Or, a winding stretch of mountainous asphalt, leading to a cliff in front of pristine, cobalt blue sea, and a top-down convertible. Sounds like epiphanies for what we would like to do once the Covid-19-imposed lockdown ends? While that may well be true, such scenes found a second home through the past few months, when most of us around the world spent our days locked up at home.
Through this time, nature photographers brought the outdoors right into their living rooms, recreating shots that would have otherwise been taken out in the wild. The project, that went viral under the #OurGreatIndoors hashtag on Instagram, was brought to life by Sony Alpha-certified photographer Erin Sullivan, and then recreated by numerous photographers around the world.
How it all started
In Sullivan’s own words, the project began out of a need to stay creative through the lockdown period, for her own sake. In an interview with News18, she says, “In California, we got our stay-at-home orders mid-March. Normally, my work involves quite a bit of traveling, so I was quickly confronted with trying to figure out how I could stay creative when I couldn’t leave my house. I had the idea to create outdoor landscapes using objects in my house, and began sketching out a few ideas. I added model train figures in order to give the images a sense of scale. After creating & photographing the first few scenes, I saw that this could be a much bigger series and could be something that my community can participate in. I invited them to create their own scenes, using the hashtag #OurGreatIndoors.”
While the project branched from Sullivan’s creative spark, photographers across the world adapted to it in different ways, and that’s how #OurGreatIndoors really took off. It travelled all the way to India as well, with photographers taking it up in their own ways. One such photographer is Utkarsh Singh, who also happens to still be a student, and affirms that it is not at all difficult to take part in such trends. Speaking to us, Singh said, “It all starts with one simple idea, and my project ‘Homescapes’ is based on her (Sullivan’s).”
Like Singh, photographers around the world started giving their own twists and interpretations to create resplendent frames. Craig Shimala, a photojournalist and creative photographer based in Chicago, tells us that after he spotted the project on his friend timeline, who had shared Sullivan’s work. “As a huge fan of miniatures, it ignited a spark in me to dust off my collection and join in the fun of #OurGreatIndoors. I also wanted to put my own creative spin on the idea by incorporating video, time-lapse and stop motion techniques.”
For Edward Fitzpatrick, a young designer who pursues hiking in the Scottish highlands and photography as a hobby, the project came out almost from boredom. “I came across #OurGreatIndoors from Sullivan’s set while scrolling endlessly on Instagram. I was really inspired by the creativity of how people could recreate their adventures from home,” he says.
Arranging the shots
The real trick, as Sullivan says, was in getting together small items at home, which were otherwise likely to just lie around. Apart from that, the entire shooting process was almost uniformly not difficult. “Usually (the shoot) is not very difficult. The key for me is to have a solid idea before I even start to create the scene. I try to develop the scene in my mind and on a sketchbook, before I start building it. If the idea is well-developed, usually the shoot is not very difficult,” Sullivan says.
On this note, Singh says that he wants to build on the project once the lockdown is over, and is working with very limited resources at the moment. While that may be difficult, Singh states that the very fun of the project lies in creating frames out of limited resources, and that itself somewhat signifies the importance of the #OurGreatIndoors project at a time like this. Talking about his interpretation of it with ‘Homescapes’, Singh says, “This project for me is about the hopes and dreams of people like us, who love travelling but can’t because of the situation. I’m trying to connect myself as well as others with nature, through this project.”
Shimala, on the other hand, had it slightly easier, since he used to apply miniatures even in his outdoor shoots. The real difficulty, for him, happens to be in drawing a line. As he explains, “I think the most difficult thing is telling myself that these (frames) don’t need to be perfect. I have a habit of taking a simple idea and building on it a bit too much. My stop-motion campfire scene was just that – it all started around the campfire, and the next thing I knew, I had built a whole forest around it. It still needed something more, so I added smoke to the fire and a bear in the background, and the next thing I knew, I’d spent well over 6 hours on it.”
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, ended up ‘borrowing’ his toddler nephew’s toys to satiate his creativity burst. “I feel like it’s been one big adventure from home – I’ve captured shots of the mountains, dived underwater and even captured scenes from a jungle safari.” Interestingly, Fitzpatrick says that whenever he recreates scenes from the wild, the final result is quite different from what he sets out to make. “I don’t ever put too much pressure on my creations. I started this to have fun during lockdown, so although I sometimes find it hard to match the vision I have in my head, I always try and find a way around it. Most of the time, what I set out to create completely changes by the final image,” he adds.
More creativity, less equipment
Sullivan, who primarily shot with a Sony a7R III paired with a 90mm f/2.8 prime lens, tells us that it isn’t even necessary to have expensive or sophisticated equipment to join a photography movement like #OurGreatIndoors. “It is absolutely possible to take photographs like this without expensive equipment. It’s less about the gear you have and more about your creativity. I have seen people participate in this project using their smartphone or whatever camera they have access to,” she adds. Sullivan further calls out to all the young, budding photographers to simply pick up whichever camera is around them, and create any scene that can be made. “Don’t be too attached to the result, or allow yourself to get frustrated. You have to let it flow,” she states.
Singh, for instance, created his rendition of #OurGreatIndoors with a fairly basic rig – a Nikon D5300 entry-level DSLR, paired with a 35mm prime lens. It is this that underlines the beauty of the project, and Singh further adds that the presence of manual modes and depth sensors in smartphones mean that with a little bit of editing, taking these photographs is very, very possible.
Singh’s voice is echoed by Shimala, who even states that despite having professional gear, he often relies on his smartphones. “My primary camera is a Sony a7R III, but I also shoot so much on my phones. I use both the Apple iPhone X and the Google Pixel 4, and there have been so many times when I’d load up a bag full of (photography) gear to go shoot around town, and in the end, only shoot with my phones because they’re so powerful these days,” he says.
Fitzpatrick even states that he actually liked what many others created with their smartphones, too. “You definitely do not need any expensive equipment, and most of the ideas come from your creativity. Recently, I ran a challenge to encourage others to create from home using what they had available. People got really creative, and I actually loved some of the images more than mine, which were captured on an ‘expensive camera’,” he added. Fitzpatrick shoots on a Canon EOS 6D II, with 24-70mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4 lenses.
The importance of Instagram
With this Insta-born project, most of the photographers that we spoke to agree about the platform’s impact. In fact, Shimala even goes on to say, “I don’t think I would be where I am today without Instagram. It has fueled so many ideas and connected me with so many amazing people through the years that I am beyond thankful for that.”
However, Sullivan, the creator of #OurGreatIndoors, opines that it is not a must-have for everyone. While she does admit that Instagram is a good platform to showcase work, she signs off by arguing that Instagram is not the parameter of success, which makes it an optional choice for photographers, even in today’s world.
WhatsApp will soon offer the ability to make video calls with the help of Facebook’s recently launched Messenger Rooms.
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.
Taking on Zoom and other video conferencing apps like Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, Facebook has rolled out its group video chat Messenger Rooms globally that allows free video calls with up to 50 people with no time limit. Rooms can be created right from Messenger or Facebook and give people the ability to share links to invite anyone to join, even if they don’t have a Facebook account.
“You can start and share rooms on Facebook through News Feed, Groups and Events, so it’s easy for you to drop by whenever you want. You can choose who can see and join your room or remove people from your room and lock the room if you don’t want anyone else to join,” explained Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger. For Facebook’s business, Messenger Rooms is an opportunity to realign its messaging products as popular video chat alternatives like Zoom.
To create your room, download the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store and the Messenger Desktop app from the Microsoft Store or Mac App Store. Facebook users globally can create a room from Messenger, and users in North America can create a room from Facebook.
“We’re also starting to roll out the ability to host up to 50 people in a room globally,” Chudnovsky said in a statement on Thursday. Facebook earlier announced that its group video chat Messenger Rooms is available within Groups and Events.
Members can also add link sharing to make it easier to invite more people to their room, including people who aren’t friends, a member of the group or who don’t have Facebook or Messenger. Members and admins can create a Room from the Groups composer. The group composer will show active Groups focused chats that people can join.
There can be many chat rooms per individual group. Rooms that already include 50 people will not be able to add any additional group members, including admins. Admins have the ability to allow Messenger Rooms within their group or make Rooms “admin only” so only admins can create but anyone can join.
“Or allow any person within the group to create a room. To help admins keep their communities safe, admins will have the ability to delete any video chat room,” said Facebook. If a group has post approvals on, Admins will be the only ones who can create a Room, unless the admin changes the setting. For groups that don’t have post approvals on, the default will be anyone in the group can create a Room, it added.
To help people connect more easily and accurately, Facebook has started to roll out the ability to mark a Facebook Event as an “Online Event.” Reports surfaced that Facebook Messenger Rooms shortcut will soon be available on WhatsApp’s Web version. It will enable users to connect with their friends and family via Messenger Rooms from their PCs and laptops.
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.