Social distancing and sheltering in place leaves many people yearning for connections to family and friends. There are dozens of video chat apps such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. Not to be outdone Facebook released a brand new Messenger for the desktop app that is supposed to be even easier for connections to spend time together. Is it really easier? I organized a virtual online reunion with some friends whom I worked with many years ago to find out.
You must go to Microsoft Store or MacOS store to find the new Facebook Messenger app and install it on your computer. Since most everyone is on Facebook I thought it would be as easy as adding names and profiles to one message and video call. Instead I found I needed to create a group to share messages and connect with that group in the app using the video option found at the top right corner of the message window.
Organizing this group took a good bit of time.
I didn’t have to schedule the video chat within Facebook but I did need to let everyone in the group know what time we’d all try to be available.
Once I started the video chat, one by one people started joining. In no time there were 8 people, including myself, all face-to-face on the screen. Some joined using the new desktop app and some connected with the Messenger app on their smartphone.
Their faces all showed up on the same screen. Those using their phone showed their video in portrait mode while everyone on the computer was streamed in landscape mode. When someone started to talk, their picture or video showed up full-screen. You can turn that feature off so that you see everyone in small thumbnails.
I tried Facebook Messenger using the desktop app as well as through the iPhone app. Unlike what we found last week with Zoom, Facebook Messenger’s video quality was not good. The video often froze and the audio had a lot of feedback.
One benefit of using Messenger rather than the free version of Zoom is that there is no time limit. Zoom allows for video chats for up to 40 minutes for free. Paid versions with practically unlimited time and for up to 100 people is $15 a month.
While I expected Facebook Messenger to be easier to use, I found it was not. While it’s okay to use as a chat between only two people, it was far more glitchy than Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. But who’s complaining?
I hadn’t seen some of these friends in at least 25 years and it was a happy reunion even with the hiccups.
After using Facebook Messenger, Facetime, Google Hangouts and Zoom, the winner is clear. Zoom is everything you’d want it to be