Today Facebook announced that it will integrate Groups with Messenger, allowing users to form up to 250-person chatrooms and 50-person video calls. It’s also adding support for 3D photos uploaded from iPhones.
250-Person Group Chats… Yes, You Can Turn Off Notifications
A handful of controversies have taken their toll on Facebook, causing users to migrate to other social media platforms. Last year, Facebook reportedly lost the attention of more than 2.8 million young users. Rather than trying to bring new users in, Facebook is focused on keeping the people who currently use the service engaged and active. The new group chat feature should increase activity within groups and give users a reason to continue spending time on Facebook. It should also provide a real-time sense of community within groups by providing a space for people with similar interests to make deeper connections.
It’s no secret that group chats walk the line between “this is fun and useful,” and “this is annoying.” In a wondrous act of forward thinking, Facebook designed the new group chats in a way that keeps you from being involuntarily dragged into a group of 200+ people talking at the same time. When somebody wants you to join their chat, they send an invite to your inbox. Then it’s up to you to approve or decline (or ignore) their invite. If you choose to join an active group chat, Facebook gives you the option to toggle the notifications on and off. Group chats will slowly roll out over the next few weeks.
Facebook Groups have served as a modern incarnation of internet forums. People who are interested in fitness, politics, and pets can find communities of like-minded people to talk with. The new group chat feature has the potential to solidify and expand the sense of community that already exists in Facebook Groups.
Facebook’s 3D Photo Integration Isn’t Premature, It’s Proactive
Also new today, Facebook’s integration of 3D images seems to be an act of serious forward-thinking, and the update will be more exciting as 3D cameras become common in phones. As of right now, you can only upload 3D photos from an iPhone with a compatible camera, but all users can interact with 3D photos by tilting and pinching them. Facebook suggests taking well lit photos about 4 feet away from your subject if you want it to work in 3D. Understandably, it’s difficult for phones to judge depth in conditions with poor lighting or a lack of contrast.
It’s interesting that Facebook is announcing these updates on the same day, because both Group Chats and 3D photos offer a dimension of liveliness and “authenticity” that Facebook has lacked in the past.