Apps | April 25, 2020 8:26 pm

Facebook and Google Promote Videoconferencing Rivals to Zoom

Videoconferencing is a growing part of life for many people

Webcam
These are a lot more ubiquitous than they were a few months ago.
Asim18/Creative Commons

Before this spring, you might not have used Zoom all that much. Now, however, it’s become a part of everyday life for many people — whether they’re using it for work meetings or socializing with family and friends. (It’s also made distinctive Zoom backgrounds into a thing in their own right.) But as tends to be the case when an upstart tech company fills a niche, existing giants of that industry begin to wonder whether they can get capitalize on that.

A new article by Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel at The New York Times delves into how companies like Facebook and Google are working on their own alternatives to Zoom. On Friday, Facebook released a sizable upgrade to its video capabilities. On Friday, The Verge’s Casey Newton summarized the changes:

The company today announced Messenger Rooms, a tool for starting virtual hangouts with up to 50 people and allowing friends to drop in on you whenever they like. It’s also doubling the capacity of video calls on WhatsApp from four people to eight, adding video calls to Facebook Dating, and adding new live-streaming features to both Facebook and Instagram.

Writing at Recode, Sara Morrison noted that this is not unusual behavior for the social network. “You might even say Facebook ripped off all the good features that made Zoom so successful while dumping the ones that made it so controversial,” Morrison wrote. “Facebook does this all the time.”

Facebook isn’t the only tech company looking to move in on Zoom’s space. Isaac and Frenkel place Facebook’s move in context — they’re one of many firms making moves in that direction.

Google this month made its video chat app, Meet, more accessible through Gmail. Cisco recently promoted its Webex teleconferencing service as highly secure compared with Zoom. And Verizon announced last week that it was acquiring BlueJeans Network, a videoconferencing service.

Even when COVID-19 is contained, videoconferencing is likely to continue to be a larger part of life — so it isn’t surprising to see more companies exploring that territory. The companies getting a foothold there aren’t the first to do so; they’re also not going to be the last.

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