WhatsApp is doubling the number of people you can hold a video call with from four to eight.
“This is going to launch next week,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. On Friday, he held a live stream where he went over his company’s plans to keep people connected during the pandemic.
The upcoming upgrade to WhatsApp has been a heavily requested feature among users, Zuckerberg added. WhatsApp is one of the few mainstream chat apps that offers end-to-end encryption on video calls, which can prevent your communications from being accessed by hackers, oppressive government regimes and even Facebook itself.
“So having the ability to have your calls not limited to four people, but now include eight, is a big deal during this period,” Zuckerberg said.
It’ll also give people an alternative to Zoom, which has skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic. The product can let you simultaneously view up to 49 people during a video session, which is far more than WhatsApp can do. However, Zoom doesn’t offer complete end-to-end encryption. The company will generate and then manage the encryption keys for your meetings over its own servers. (That all said, Zoom says it doesn’t monitor or store your video meetings, unless the session is recorded by the host.)
Zuckerberg went on to add that the company is seeing a surge of video calls over WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger due to everyone staying at home during the pandemic. “In many countries, we’ve seen the number of calls has doubled during this period,” he said. “For some specific categories like group video chat, we’ve seen the number of calls go up by 10x or more.”
The pandemic is also steering users to buy Portal, the company’s line of smart display/video conferencing products.
“Sales of Portal devices have grown by more than 10x,” he added. “And we’re working as hard as we can to make more of them for all of you, who are trying to get their hands on one during this period.”