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Facebook overhauls groups with private chats and voice chat

Facebook groups are being overhauled in a big way.

meta and facebook logo on grey background
Image: Unsplash

The Artist Formerly Known as Facebook, Meta, has announced a massive overhaul of its groups feature. The latest update is designed to facilitate smaller, more intimate conversations.

Page admins can now create smaller backchannel conversations within existing groups, as well as ClubHouse-style real-time voice conversations.

Although both features are rooted within groups, these features are primarily accessed through Messenger.

Building the backchannel

facebook groups update
Image: KnowTechie

Facebook first launched groups in late 2010. At the time, Zuckerberg described groups as a “fundamental building block” of the then-ascendent social media company.

READ MORE: Facebook brings back the chronological feed for your friends

Although the company has experienced massive changes since then — least of all, its name — the basic formula behind groups has remained fairly constant. Groups work much as they did back in 2010.

The latest update changes that. First: Group admins now have the ability to create smaller channels within existing groups.

Admins can hand-pick their members, with Facebook expecting the feature to facilitate “deeper conversations on common interests.”

In its announcement, Facebook said these real-time chats will be a “place for people to message, collaborate, and form deeper relationships around topics in a more real-time way.”

“Community chat channels [are] a place for people to message, collaborate and form deeper relationships around topics in a more real-time way across both Facebook Groups and Messenger. So when you’re in your new BBQ lovers group and need real-time feedback while attempting your first brisket, an admin can create a chat for that,” it said.

I’m a cynic. Naturally, I expect they will equally be used for gossip and under-the-radar bitching about other group members.

Or, perhaps, a more private environment for conspiratorial crackpots to congregate and share theories about Pizzagate.

Real-time voice chats are coming to groups

facebook groups with new voice chat
Image: KnowTechie

Channeling the oft-quoted Oscar Wilde adage, “talent borrows, genius steals,” Facebook has also borrowed a leaf from ClubHouse’s playbook. Another feature announced this week allows group admins to create dedicated audio channels.

Like the old-school party lines of the analog era, members will be able to jump in and out, allowing for serendipitous conversations with people that share their interests. Again, this all takes place on Messenger.

In fairness to Facebook, it isn’t the only company that’s taken healthy inspiration from ClubHouse. The biggest social media flash-in-the-pan of 2021, ClubHouse enjoyed rapid growth, only to suffer an equally swift decline.

That hasn’t stopped other companies — most notably Twitter — from following in its path. And I’d bet my life that it won’t be the last.

As Ello, App.Net, and countless other challenger social networks demonstrate, it’s hard to dislodge an incumbent, even if the underlying concept is sound. It is, however, trivially simple for one of the established players to copy them.

In its announcement, Facebook said it is experimenting with new approaches to discoverability. The company has started trials of a sidebar that shows your favorite groups, and those with recent activity.

The company did not disclose a release timeline for this feature. Nor did it reveal where it’ll test the feature before its launch.

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