Facebook has joined the ranks of companies such as Microsoft, Zoom, Apple and Google that offer free online video calling, by adding the new ‘Rooms’ feature to its Messenger service. One of the best things about this, in these post Social Dilemma days where people are less happy with using social media sites, you don’t even need a Facebook account to join in on calls and there are no times limits for how long you can use the Room.
We show you how to use Messenger Rooms on your smartphone, tablet and PC.
How to set up a Messenger Room on a phone
It only takes a few steps to get a Messenger Room up and running on your smartphone or tablet. To create one, you’ll need a Facebook account, but you can invite people without an account to attend the calls.
On the Facebook Messenger app, tap the Create Room icon in the upper left part of the screen. This opens the Room menu, which contains three settings you’ll need to address before things can begin.
The first is Room activity, which describes the theme of the room. Now, you don’t really have to bother with this if you don’t want to, as the default is just that it’s your room. But, if you want to give attendees an idea of the vibe, then tap the setting and you’ll be presented with a wide range of options that go from Hanging out to Study break.
With this done (or ignored), the next part is selecting who can enter your room. Tapping the Who can join automatically? setting reveals two options: Anyone with the link or People you invite.
To invite existing Facebook users and those who don’t have a Facebook account you’ll need to select Anyone with the link option, although you won’t see the link until you finish creating the room.
The People you invite option is restricted to those with Facebook or Messenger accounts. Facebook states that you can have up to 50 people on any one call, so you can feel free to select a fair smattering of chums. Just be aware that the more faces on a screen, the smaller amount of space there will be to see them.
The final setting is Schedule for later. As the name suggests, this gives you the choice of setting a time and date in the future when the call will take place. Toggle it on and choose when to schedule the call or leave it off if you want to begin immediately.
To get started, tap the Create Room option at the bottom of the screen. You’ll now be taken to the Invite page where you can invite groups or individuals on Messenger or copy the link at the top of the page and send it to friends that don’t use Facebook.
When you’ve finished selecting the people you want to attend, tap the Join Room button at the top of the page. The final stage is to choose to Join as [Your Name] option and the Room will begin.
How to set up a Messenger Room on a laptop or PC
It’s a similar method on a desktop PC or laptop. Go to the Facebook website and log into your account. Then, at the top of your news feed, you should see the Rooms section with the option to Create Room.
Click this and you’ll see the Create your room menu appear. Now, just follow the instructions outlined above to set up the various parameters for what the room is called, who can join your call, and when it begins.
The only real difference is in regards to whom you can invite. The principles are the same, but the words are slightly different. Clicking on the Who is invited? section gives you two options: Friends and Invite Specific People.
Selecting the first will make the room open to anyone of your friends who sees the Room in your feed. They can just click on the Join button and be part of the fun. This is perfect if you’re just looking for people to hang out with while at a loose end, but it does lack any kind of control.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to create your own room to spend time with friends, as they may have already done that themselves. So, take a quick look at your feed and see if anyone’s Room is listed in the Room section, then click Join and you’ll be able to chat with those who are already there.
To be more selective, choose the Invite Specific People option. This gives you a list that you can use to cherry pick friends, plus there’s the Skip button at the bottom which will let you send a link instead so non-Facebook using chums can join the call. To do this, you’ll need to click the Turn On button when asked if you want to enable Link Sharing.
When you click the Create Room button, you’ll see the option to copy and paste the link, plus a Share button for Facebook users and the Edit button if you want to amend any of your settings. You can also abandon the whole idea by clicking the End Room button.
When you’re happy, click the Join Room button to open your doors.
What can you do in a Facebook Messenger Room?
The features in Messenger Rooms are quite basic but are more than enough for casual hangouts and short meetings. On the desktop version, if you look along the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a few options. These include the ability to share your screen, see all of the participants on the current call and lock the room if you don’t want any more to join, mute your microphone, turn off the video or end the call.
In the top right corner, there’s also the three dots icon that opens the Settings option. This gives you the ability to control which cameras, microphones and speakers are used on the call.
The mobile version is similar, with a shorter row of options on the bottom of the screen that appear when you tap the screen. These give you control over your microphone, camera, and have a button to create a link you can share with friends. Sliding up on the menu reveals additional settings, including locking the room or even ejecting people by selecting People and then tapping the Remove option next to their name.
On the normal screen once more, tapping the arrow in the top left corner lets you return to the Facebook Messenger interface so you can chat with people and respond to messages, then tap the red section at the top of the page to return to the Room.
One last bit of fun is the emoji icon that appears in your video feed. Tap this and you can apply a number of filter effects and backgrounds.
If you’ve used Zoom, Skype or any modern messaging service then you’ll find it all very familiar. To see how the rivals compare, be sure to also read our guide to the best online video conferencing tools.