Sunday, October 1, 2023

Facebook and Messenger take a hint from Discord for new community chats

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Two screenshots of the Facebook app are shown on two iPhone X devices floating on a pink and blue cloud-like background.  The screens show an example of chats in a group called Women Who Surf
A Facebook group called “Women Who Surf” has multiple new community chats for direct engagement with its members. | Image: Meta

Facebook is extend access to a feature that allows group organizers to create curated live Messenger chat groups. It’s called Community Chats, and you can browse chats organized by announcements, topics, events, and more to connect with group members beyond just posts and comments.

Earlier this year as a preview of “Community Chat Channels” in a larger Discord-esque rethink of Facebook groups and Messenger group chats, the new Community Chats also resemble a casual version of workplace community platforms like Slack, Teams and Zoom’s upcoming Team Chat. Finding inspiration in other apps is nothing new to Meta, although progress in challenging TikTok with similar features in Instagram Reels has been unstable.

The chats can also go beyond texting, with support for audio channels including up to 30 group members, and people can turn on their cameras to present or broadcast what they’re doing. In “the coming weeks,” tests will begin for a feature that allows you to use Community Chat within Messenger and then generate a Facebook group, giving your casual group chat a more organized home base. Not all groups currently have access to chats, but parent company Meta says more will be coming soon.

The biggest benefit to those who maintain large Facebook groups is the ability to get instant responses to hot topics in the community. Think pokemon go Facebook groups (do you still have one?) for a very big city, but admins can create Messenger groups for different city districts so people can stay connected to the next gym closest to them – the kind organization that Discord has always excelled at.

Three simulated phone screens showing examples of Community Chat groups accessible through Meta's Messenger app.
Image: Meta
Community chats displayed in the Messenger app

Group admins have some tools at their disposal, designed to keep the community well-maintained, including auto-moderation features that can trigger members who post group-violating content. Admins can also manually block, mute, and suspend members, and delete their posts. Users can expect their privacy settings to remain consistent across the new Community Chats and Facebook will use machine learning to automatically delete malicious messages at a “wider width” than in private Messenger chats.

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