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19-Oct-2017 05:51

Teen app sensation Houseparty will get some competition as Facebook Messenger is launching its own split-screen group video chat feature.Six users can appear in split-screen at the time and don Snapchat-style selfie masks, while 50 total can listen and talk over voice while sending text, stickers, emojis, and GIFs.Instead of simply logging into an ever-present video chat room that notifies friends like on Houseparty, you deliberately select friends or a group text thread to invite to a video call.Once in, up to 4 Messenger users can share big slices of the screen, while Houseparty accommodates 8.Place a new call and the app offers two options: re-dial one of your most recent calls, or start a new one.

What's weird is it's a video call, from someone using Duo, Google's video chat app available today for i OS and Android.

245 million people make video calls on Messenger each month already, so this feature could see rapid adoption.

The launch makes Messenger the first popular western messaging app with group video chat.

If the person in your phone book, the Knock Knock feature provides live video before you pick up. Turn it back on and video should return, too— though it doesn't always cooperate.

(the Duo ad does a great job showing you all the cool things you can do with Knock Knock, but mostly I use it to make sure everyone's clothed.) Swipe up to answer, and you're on the call. You can use Duo to call anyone, but it seems designed largely for calling the same people over and over.

Video calling has been the next big thing in communication for two decades, and a staple of science fiction for far longer. Even now, when the tech is good enough and everyone carries Internet-connected cameras, it's hardly the first thing you think to do. How do you hold the phone far enough from your face to avoid looking terrifying yet close enough to avoid yelling to be heard? I used to play videogames during phone calls, and texting while watching TV is standard for anyone with a phone and a TV.