Facebook Messenger Group Video Chat Now Lets You Add People to Live Calls—But It Could Be More

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A Facebook Messenger icon, the service now allows you to add users to live group video chats.

A quick fix can be very satisfying. In the software world, these generally come in the form of patches or updates that solve little glitches. Occasionally, these fixes do more than just eradicate weird program crashes; they make a dramatic impact on the user experience.

The engineers behind Facebook Messenger have created such a fix.

As of late February, it is now possible to add additional people to a Facebook Messenger group video chat while it is in progress. This sounds like something that should have been available since the video call function was launched in 2015 (to us at VC Daily, at least, but at least somebody finally got around to adding it.

This isn’t the kind of update that is going to change the video conferencing world—live call additions have been around for quite a while elsewhere—but if you’re a regular Messenger caller then this quick fix is going to make life a lot easier, and could even lead to a new way of making friends online.

How to Add People to a Facebook Messenger Group Video Chat

Using the new function is very simple. Within an existing one-on-one or group video chat, you just tap the screen to reveal an “add person” option, and then cycle through your contacts and invite in whoever you feel has something to add to the conversation.

Using Messenger’s own example, if you’re on a birthday call to mom and you want your brother and sister to join the Happy Birthday chorus, you can now do it instantly.

As we noted earlier, that’s hardly a revolutionary feature—unless you experienced the previous version. Under the old system, you’d have to hang up on Mom, wait until your siblings were ready, and then simultaneously launch a group call. That old method was not only clumsy, it undercut Facebook Messenger’s boast about being able to host 50 video callers at once—no one is fortunate enough to have 49 punctual friends.

The convenience this update affords Messenger should make the whole video chat feel like more of a real group conversation. After all, people drop in and out of group discussions in the real world all the time.

Preventing Video Meeting Latecomers

Anyone who’s ever watched a colleague on a weak web connection drop in and out of a group Skype call knows this new Messenger feature has been around for some time on other platforms. In fact, the ability to join a live call in progress has become something of a nuisance. So much so that video calling platforms have taken steps to curtail it.

For example, as we mentioned in our Vidyo review, Vidyo offers video call hosts the option of locking their meetings so latecomers can’t interrupt things by logging in while someone’s Facebook's user numbersspeaking. This feature makes sense, because while a video call may replicate a live meeting better than any other technology, you can’t silently open a conference room door and take a seat at the back online—adding yourself to a meeting opens a whole new chat window, and your face becomes the focus of everyone’s attention (not to mention that loud “ding” that you get on many video chat platforms whenever someone new hops on).

There is one thing Messenger could have included in its update that would have truly been worthy of praise. That would be to make use of its active monthly user base of 1.2 billion people and let us know who’s calling whom in case we want to join in.

Taking Things a Step Further

Obviously, a video call is more intimate than a status update on Facebook, and there are legitimate privacy concerns about letting the world know who’s currently face-to-face. Within a closed group though, it might be nice to know that mom and Meg are currently chatting—it would certainly remind you that today is mom’s birthday.

A simple version of this idea might send an alert to members of a private chat group every time two or more people in their circle start a video call.

It would give Messenger the kind of fluid online experience that has proven popular with younger users on apps like Houseparty. The app rose to the top of the download charts (before swooning and rising again), mostly due to the open nature of its social video calls. Here, users are free to roam video chat rooms provided they know at least one person in the room. It’s a friend-of-a-friend vibe that simulates the fluid nature of real-world socializing.

Facebook Messenger could go some way toward mimicking that feature by adding something like our hypothetical video call alert. If you were planning on spending a night chatting with a friend online and you get word that they’re already engaged with a few strangers, you could send them a request to join their video conversation as a digital plus-one.

That kind of merging of interconnecting social circles is what made parent company Facebook into one of the most influential tech companies on the planet in the first place. Maybe a second revolution could all come about from a quick fix.

Image Sources: Flickr CC User Stacey MacNaught, and Anthony Quintano

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