Facebook announces new Workplace features as paid users hit five million

The platform seeks to exploit ongoing security concerns plaguing Zoom

Facebook has announced the launch of a range of new features which aim to help businesses work more effectively from home during the coronavirus lockdown.

The new features include updates to Facebook’s enterprise connectivity platform Workplace as well as the new Oculus for Business unit, which was up until now in closed beta testing.

The tech giant also announced that their Facebook Work Groups, which help coworkers connect for more lightweight tasks, have reached 20 million active monthly users across 170,000 active Work Groups.

One of the newly-launched features is Workplace Rooms, which allows users to host both planned and spontaneous video calls from their desktop, mobile or the Workplace app on Facebook’s video calling device Portal. Just like the recently launched Messenger Rooms, Workplace Rooms allows users to hold video conferences with up to 50 people at a time, regardless of whether they have the Workplace app installed or not.

The launch might mark another attempt by the company to capitalise on the demand for video conferencing as well as take on video call giant Zoom.

Workplace VP Julien Codorniou emphasised that Workplace Rooms users will not face situations similar to ‘Zoom-bombing’. Speaking to IT Pro, he said that in order to share the screen with the rest of the video conference attendees, a user needs to “have the permission of the admin” of the call.

Codorniou also said that in the case of Zoom, “a B2C usage of the product was made with a B2B product”.

“Workplace has all the security and privacy certifications that you would expect from a system of SOC2, SOC3, ISO27, or 108, Privacy Shield, and all of that. Again, we are a B2B business even if Facebook is a B2C company,” he said.

Workplace has also experienced a surge in users during the lockdown: “Two years and a half after the launch of Workplace, we now have five million paid users (...) from three million six months ago,” said Codorniou.

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Facebook also issued updates to Workplace’s Live Video feature, adding a live Q&A feature as well as live captions which will translate from six languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and German – in real-time.

The tech giant also announced the general availability of Oculus for Business, an enterprise platform solution which aims to support large scale virtual reality (VR) deployments in corporate workplace environments. Oculus is currently used for employee-training purposes by Johnson&Johnson and for collaboration by Nestlé Purina.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the launch of Shops, which allows users to browse and purchase products directly from a business’ Facebook or Instagram profile.

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