Mark Zuckerberg did something rare Friday: he hosted a Facebook Live video chat to reveal several new product updates.

Among them is Facebook's new offering designed to compete head to head with Zoom, with something called Messenger Rooms.

Honestly, Messenger Rooms sounds a lot like Zoom, with a few key differences:

  • Maximum of 50 people in each Messenger Room.
  • No cost. (Zoom has a premium, business version).
  • No time limit. (Zoom's free version has a 40-minute limit).

That last feature might be the killer app, so to speak, because without a time limit, it's not actually necessarily to schedule meetings. Hosts could theoretically just leave a Messenger Room room open all the time, allowing people to come and go.

"You don't need to call someone and hope it's a good time or check everyone's calendar first," Facebook said in a press release. "You can start and share rooms on Facebook through News Feed, Groups, and Events, so it's easy for people to drop by. Soon we'll add ways to create rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal, too." 

Now, for most companies, it would be bad news to hear that a giant competitor like Facebook is entering your industry. 

But Zoom is in an unusual position. And, much as I wrote when it was revealed that Google had emailed employees saying it would no longer allow Zoom to be used on company-owned laptops due to security vulnerabilities, there's a very bright silver lining for Zoom.

Axios pointed it out in its reporting on this today:

"Even though there are dozens of existing group video chat services out there, Facebook's offering is unique in that it seems explicitly geared towards leisure and personal connections, rather than work."

The last 10 words, in bold, are the key. Because the apparent customers for Messenger Rooms and Zoom's customers aren't really the same people.

Zoom's CEO, Eric Yuan, has been vocal recently about how he hopes his company can return to its core business customers, rather than devoting engineering resources to supporting personal users.

That's because Zoom normally hosted about 10 million users a day, but with the Covid-19 outbreak and millions stuck at home, it saw that number skyrocket to 200 million.

Most of the new users were using the service for free--and the security issues they highlighted meant Yuan had to reallocate literally 100 percent of his engineers to fixing them.

Facebook is much bigger, of course, and it will have a target on its back so to speak. 

In his announcement, Zuckerberg said Facebook is already hosing 700 million video users a day on its various services, including Messenger and WhatsApp. But, Facebook put together a series of privacy and security protocols --among them is a feature clealry inteded to prevent a Facebook-version of "Zoombombing."

The plan is to create links with "a string of random characters and digits at the end, with numbers and letters in different cases," designed to make it hard for "hackers to guess the exact combination of characters."

Look, nobody really likes the notion of having a big, publicly traded company with a massive user base encroach on your market. 

But if you're Zoom, and you see Facebook swooping in to take the pressure off by siphoning away free users that you're already on record saying you hoped would go away anyway?

It's hard to look at that and not see some really good news.