Apps

Messenger Rooms is Facebook’s group video chat app

Supports up to 50 people

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All over the world, people are turning to video chat apps to communicate with each other. Popular apps include Zoom, Houseparty, and Microsoft Teams. Not wanting to miss the party, Facebook is launching Messenger Rooms to compete with these apps.

Facebook’s Messenger Rooms is a different service from Facebook Messenger. Messenger users have been using its video chat feature with their friends for years. The only problem though is that they can only chat with their friends. Messenger doesn’t allow a direct video chat for people you haven’t yet befriended on Facebook.

Messenger Rooms allows everyone to create a room and invite people to participate in a video chat session. You can invite anyone to a room, even those who don’t have a Facebook account. Up to 50 people can participate, and there’s no time limit on each session. In the future, anyone will be able to create a room from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, or Facebook Portal devices.

You can share rooms directly on your News Feed, Groups, or Events page. Also, you can control the visibility and other settings of the room. If you don’t want a sketchy person to crash on your friends’ intimate video chat, you can block that person. Better yet, you can lock a room so no else can just budge in and disrupt the flow.

If you get invited to a certain room, you can instantly join the chat from the website or app. Those joining from the app gain additional features like AR effects and immersive backgrounds.

Messenger Rooms is rolling out to certain countries, with general availability targeted in the coming weeks. It remains to be seen, however, if people will adopt Messenger Rooms since group video chats are already plentiful in the market. Not to mention the fact that Facebook has been dealing with privacy and security issues over the past few years.

Apps

Apple Music is getting a karaoke feature

Sometime this month

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Though karaoke machines are ubiquitous now, what happens if a night out lacks one? One trick is to just search for karaoke versions of your favorite songs on YouTube. However, if you have Apple Music, you’ll have another option. Apple’s music streaming service is getting a karaoke feature.

Announced officially by Apple, the service is introducing Apple Music Sing, a way to sing karaoke style straight from the app. The feature includes adjustable vocals which softens or loudens a song’s vocals depending on the user’s preference. Users can sing completely solo or accompanying the original singer.

As with every karaoke machine, the feature will display the lyrics in real time so users can follow along. Duet songs are also getting some love. Apple Music will split the screen in half for two different singers to sing along to a track.

To help users get started, the feature will introduce 50 companion playlists featuring all the different songs that’s “compelling people all around the world to sing”. That said, one can hope that the karaoke library is extensive. While 50 playlists are plenty, the service has a wide variety of songs that can easily trump any karaoke machine today.

Apple will start rolling out the new feature for Apple Music subscribers worldwide later this month — just in time for the holiday season. It will be available on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV 4K.

SEE ALSO: Replay! Apple Music launches new year-end experience

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Google introduces encrypted group chats

Using RCS

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It’s easy to send messages from one Apple device to another through iMessage. However, for all the system’s pomp and circumstance, iMessage ignores the entire Android population, leaving an entire swath of the smartphone-using world without accessibility and end-to-end security. For months, Google has tried convincing Apple to switch messaging systems and work together. Now, in a new push to bring equality, Google has launched its own RCS group chatting system with end-to-end encryption.

Rolling out in open beta during the next few weeks, the new system will allow Android users to chat with a group of other Android users. Using RCS technology, messaging is free, secure, and easy to use.

For accessibility, users can send high-quality media, react using emojis, and see any typing in real time. It works much like other messaging services these days. One advantage, however, is that the new feature will come automatically with Google Messages, an app already baked into a lot of Android devices. Users might not need to download another app — and that also plays into security.

Speaking of security, end-to-end encryption will ensure that only the users can see what the conversation is about. Neither the user’s network nor Google itself can snoop in and gather data.

Unfortunately, the system does have a massive caveat: It won’t work between Android to Apple conversations. Because Apple uses a different system, it’s currently impossible for cross-platform conversations to have the same level of security and convenience.

In the feature’s announcement, Google even calls Apple’s texting “stuck in the 1990s,” renewing its call to get Apple to convert. The company then names several global companies who have already switched to RCS messaging, including Globe.

SEE ALSO: Google is bringing its VPN to PC and Mac

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Netflix might ask more users to watch films before they premiere

An exclusive group

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Watching a movie before it comes out thrusts viewers into an exclusive sweet spot beyond normal moviegoers. Not everyone gets into this club, though. Usually, the privilege of an advanced screening goes to people involved in the moviemaking industry. However, with the current zeitgeist revolving around streaming services like Netflix, it’s easier to catch a movie before anyone else can.

Offering more users a chance to enter this club, Netflix is expanding its pool of preview viewers starting next year. First reported by Wall Street Journal, the platform will reportedly include tens of thousands of viewers — a gigantic climb from its current base of around 2,000 users.

Members of this group will have access to unreleased movies and series over a period of six months. After which, users will answer surveys to help Netflix determine which movies are worth seeing or skipping. It works like a focus group but automated by Netflix’s system.

If the program does expand next year, the company has not confirmed how it will do so or who is eligible to join. If anything, they have been asking subscribers their interest in taking part in the program.

Focus groups and advanced screenings are a common part of Netflix’s content cycle. Besides asking users for feedback before releasing content, the platform also releases content in other formats prior to a streaming launch. For example, the upcoming sequel to Knives Out, Glass Onion, premiered in select theaters for a week before its streaming release on December 23.

SEE ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Dubbing with Netflix, HIT Productions

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