Over the last few months, the video conferencing space has been booming as billions of people stay indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, Facebook launched a new group video chat platform ‘Messenger Rooms’ to capitalize on the boom in video use. The new feature is available on Facebook’s core social network and its Messenger app. A link to Rooms will also be added to Instagram Direct and WhatsApp.
While Facebook isn’t new to video chat, the new feature co-opts some of the top video chat innovations, making it a rival to popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Houseparty and Google Meet.
With Facebook joining the video chat fray, the pool for selecting a preferred video conferencing platform just got bigger. However, choosing a favourite among several platforms depends majorly on user experience. And that’s why I have curated some of the major features you should consider when making your choice.
Zoom is a great video conferencing app that exploded in popularity following the outbreak. Its number of users rose exponentially from 10 million to more than 300 million in just a few months.
The platform was majorly aimed at companies for live video chat meeting but following the lockdown schools, churches and families have been using it to keep in touch.
Zoom allows users to share the screen for presentation during calls, provides an on-screen whiteboard feature for lectures and brainstorming sessions and a recording feature to save and document call sessions.
Other features include integration to slack and Zapier for companies who use them, access to meeting analytics (Top users by minutes) and access to in-depth support such as live help, online chat, etc.
Zoom has a free plan that lets you host up to 100 participants in a video call for a duration of 40 minutes. However, its Pro plan which costs N5,403 ($14.99) per month per host extends the duration limit to up to 24 hours.
It also has the business plan with cost N72,063 ($199.90) for a minimum of 10 hosts and a N648,900 ($1,400) educational pack per year, which supports up to 300 participants for schools.
However, while Zoom users have been surging, it has been struggling with several backlashes due to a series of security problems like “Zoombombing” which puts the privacy of its users at risk.
Facebook’s Messenger Rooms is a video chat platform that allows users to spend quality time with friends and loved ones. For now, only 8 people can join in the group video chat, but the limit will rise to 50 within weeks, making it an instant rival to Zoom.
The platform is also adopting a gallery view for group calls which is similar to Zoom’s. Users in the room can use Facebook’s augmented reality filters, or jump between chats to visit different groups of friends, making it spontaneous, social and less corporate like the Houseparty app.
Facebook will also be introducing an AI-powered 360-degree background that can transport users to beautiful places using various backgrounds, 14 new camera filters that offer ambient lighting to brighten your space and your face plus AR effects to use when celebrating birthdays.
Learning from Zoom’s early mistake, Facebook has put in security features that allow users to restrict their rooms, eject people if needed or lock the group so people can’t join without authorisation.
Also, the ubiquity of Facebook’s messaging app makes video chat highly accessible and easy to use as most friends and family are already on Facebook and don’t need to download a new app.
Houseparty is a video chatting app that allows users to connect with friends and family. it also lets users bounce between group chats. In the past month, the app has added more than 50 million new users.
The app allows users to connect with up to 8 people at a time. Houseparty uses a split-screen to make multiple video-chatting easy between multiple users. it also has a feature that allows for secret chats among participants.
Apart from the ability to talk to your clique of friends at the same time, the app also provides features that let you change camera views during conversations, send voice notes or ‘Facemail’ – a short video message to friends who are not online.
Other features include in-game elements, use of personal emojis and ability to hide your presence or use the app in an anonymous mode called ‘Ghost’. The app is integrated into Facebook and Snapchat to allow you to easily add friends. It also has security features that let you lock a chat room so that only people you would like in the room can access it.
Google Meet is a video conferencing app more suitable for business applications like webinars. With the platform, you can host video calls with up to 150 people, depending on the service plan selected.
The platform is accessible on iOS and Android mobile devices. Also, meetings can be scheduled and users can be easily invited using google calendar. For those who can’t attend a meeting via a video feed, they can join by calling through the phone.
Google Meets allows meeting hosts to share their screen for a presentation, showing documents and spreadsheets they want participants to see. Enterprise plan users can record meetings and save them automatically to their Google drive. They can also enable live streaming for up to 100,000 in-domain.
There are three different service plans for Meets depending on the G-suite. The Basic plan allows up to 100 participants and cloud storage of 30GB for N2,163($6) per user per month. The Business plan allows up to 150 participants and a 1TB cloud storage per user for N4,326 ($12) per user per month. The Enterprise plan allows up to 250 participants and 1 TB per user for N9,012 per user per month.
Google Meets also offers additional programs that come with access to the full complement of G Suite programs, making it a better option to buying the suite individually especially if you are on a tight budget.
However, you can only access Meets via the Google Chrome web browser and it does not include some of the valuable features that other services offer like whiteboard tools and poll-and-survey options.
The Future of Video Conferencing
The increasing competition in the video conferencing market means more interesting features would keeping popping up as the players scramble to remain relevant and possibly, become the favourite in the market.
So if you are choosing a video chat tool, depending on what your preferences are; social, business, or a little bit of both, there is a video conferencing platform that fits your spec.
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