Chat rooms, or breakout rooms, on video calling apps are providing users a private space for expression, helping avoid unnecessary conversations
By Shriya Roy
Covid-19 has made video meetings and group conference calls a necessity today. With people working remotely and with limited person-to-person interaction, video calls have taken the place of dinner tables at restaurants. There’s, however, one particular feature of video calls that is being talked about a lot: chat rooms, or breakout rooms. Chat rooms can be customised to enable only a certain number of people to join a particular chat, helping users avoid unnecessary interaction with other people.
The chat room feature has been incorporated by many apps into their user interface allowing smooth communication. In many apps, these rooms can be divided on the basis of topic of discussion, interest and so on. Each group can have its own private chat without interference from others, acting almost like an alternative to physical conference room meetings.
While there are many players offering this facility, the newest entrant in the space is Facebook. The social media giant has launched Messenger Rooms, a new way to join group video calls with up to 50 people. It’s an attempt by Facebook to double down on private communication and help people connect in smaller groups.
With the new feature, users will be able to start a ‘room’ from Messenger, Facebook, Instagram Direct and even WhatsApp. The choice will be theirs: open the call to all or lock it to stop uninvited people from joining. The admin of the room can also remove participants. The best part of the feature is that there’s no limit to how long one can talk. Plus, the user doesn’t need a Facebook account to join a room. Adding to the fun quotient, Facebook’s augmented reality filters help users change their backgrounds to virtual ones.
Another widely used app that popularised the concept of separate chat rooms was Zoom. The breakout room feature in Zoom allows users to split their Zoom meeting into 50 separate sessions. The meeting host can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions automatically or manually and can also switch between sessions at any time. The feature gives participants a private space to talk and discuss things in. By breaking up a meeting into smaller groups, it enables people to have their own private conversations and then come back to the macro meeting later. The host of the meeting can create up to 50 breakout rooms in a single call. Participants have full access to chat, screen share and audio features of the call. It is especially helpful for educators and teachers in the facilitation of an online classroom, where they can break the class down into smaller groups just like they would do in a physical space.
Then there is Houseparty, which has gained prominence during the pandemic. A user can create a room with whoever they want to talk to and then lock it, preventing anyone else from entering the video chat. Locking can be done by simply hitting the padlock icon at the bottom of the screen. If a user wants the lock feature to be their default setting, there is the option of automatically locking rooms by turning on the privacy mode on the settings page of the app.
There are some apps for joining public chat rooms as well. On Camfrog, users can have video conversations with millions of users from around the world. Its ‘chat room’ feature is unique because users can search and browse thousands of chat rooms created by people and are free to join any chat room they wish. Popular messaging video chat app Viber, too, allows users to actively participate and be a part of public chat rooms. One can search, find and discover dedicated chat rooms for various topics from around the world, where they can share and exchange views.
Be it public, private or breakout, chat rooms aid users in connecting and exchanging their views with like-minded people, ensuring smoother communication.