Lia Beck
Updated May 27, 2020 @ 1:31 pm
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Credit: @Instagram, Twitter

While you probably didn’t even know what Zoom was three months ago, there’s a good chance it’s become part of your social life. But, because Zoom wasn’t created with the knowledge that people would use it to talk about a pandemic while drinking wine, it’s a little… businessy. So, if you’re looking to try something a little more casual, Instagram is happy to help. Instagram’s new update involving Messenger Rooms is basically a Zoom alternative for you and up to 49 of your friends.

Messenger Rooms are video chat rooms from Facebook Messenger the social network launched in May. Before the new Instagram update, you could create Messenger Rooms on Facebook or in the Messenger app. Now, you can start a Messenger Room from Instagram and invite your friends right in the app.

Here’s how to create a Messenger Room on Instagram:

  1. Open the Instagram app.
  2. Tap the paper airplane icon in the upper right corner.
  3. Tap the video icon in the upper right corner.
  4. Tap “Create a room” and then “Create a room as [your name].”
  5. Invite your friends.
  6. Tap “Join room” and agree to leave the Instagram app for Messenger.

To make things ever clearer, Instagram posted this video demonstration on Twitter that shows all of the steps:

In addition to inviting people through Instagram, you can also invite friends by sending them a link, because those who join the chat do not necessarily have to have Instagram or Facebook accounts. But, the creator of the room has to have a Facebook account linked to their Instagram account.

There are benefits of using Messenger Rooms via Instagram that some other video chat services don’t offer: Up to 50 people can be in one chat room, and there are no time limits, according to Tech Crunch. Also, it’s pretty simple to send or receive an invite right from the Instagram app, which many people already have.

9to5Mac reports that the feature will eventually appear in WhatsApp, which, like Instagram, is owned by Facebook. For now, WhatsApp’s video chat allows for up to eight people. The site also reports that since the feature was only just added to Instagram, it might not appear in your app yet, but it should soon. Depending on your social life, for now, you can narrow down your list to 49 friends or plan on inviting the same three people you always do.