Tuesday, July 07, 2020

WhatsApp boosts from 4 to 8 the number of participants on videocalls

San Francisco, Apr 28 (EFE).- The popular messaging platform WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, on Tuesday increased from four to eight the number of people who can participate in a videocall, the move coming at a time when the app is losing ground to other competitors such as Zoom and Google Hangout.

The reigning mobile messaging app said that to be able to move beyond the previous limit of four participants, all mobile phones taking part in the call will have to have the most recent version of WhatsApp installed and the videocall will have to be initiated by a friendship group that already exists on the app as a video or voice call to which more people will be added.

The platform acquired by Facebook in 2014 enjoys great popularity all over the world as a way to exchange written and taped audio messages, but during the coronavirus crisis it has lagged behind in the videocall environment, which has ballooned in recent weeks.

Alternatives like Zoom, Houseparty, Google Hangouts, Skype and FaceTime are experiencing huge growth at present in terms of users, but WhatsApp appears to be falling behind in terms of growth.

Last week, Vodafone published figures on Spain indicating that since March 9 the use of Zoom there has grown by 4,979 percent, Google Hangout 4,684 percent and Skype 1,216 percent, while WhatsApp Video “only” grew by 388 percent.

With the upgrade on Tuesday, WhatsApp is trying to make its service more attractive for large virtual meetings, but its limit of eight participants is still far below the limits offered by its competitors: 32 for FaceTime, 50 for Skype and up to 100 for Zoom.

In another attempt to regain lost ground, Facebook last Friday launched a new teleconferencing service – Messenger Rooms – which allows videocalls with up to 50 participants (calls on Messenger, which is also owned by Facebook, currently only allow eight participants), although for the moment that number is much reduced and the limit is different for each user.

Just as in the case of Zoom, Messenger Rooms users can invite other participants to join the videocalls via a link that can be shared both by one’s mobile phone and by computer, and it’s not necessary to download any app or create an account (and one does not even need a Facebook account) to participate.

The new service is completely free, there’s no limit to the duration of the videocalls and it includes functions like augmented reality and image and color filters.

Facebook’s announcement came two days after Zoom, which up until the coronavirus crisis was a minor app and relatively unknown, reached the 300 million user threshold due to the huge increase in activity experienced in March and April with most of the world’s people under quarantine.