As the coronavirus pandemic locked people inside their homes, a lot of video calling and video conferencing apps came to the fore in order to make working or studying remotely possible or easier. While apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet saw the number of active users grow massively, several new apps were also introduced, while some messaging or social media apps added the ability to make video calls. Now, as the pandemic is set to complete almost a year, instant messaging app Signal has also decided to take a piece of the pie.
Signal announced in a blog post that it is bringing end-to-end encrypted group video calls that are limited to five participants initially. The group video call feature is rolling out with the latest version of Signal apps and are free for users. When users open a group chat in Signal, they will see a video call button on the top. Once a user starts a call, the whole group will get a notification which will let them know that the group video call has started. When a user starts or joins a group video call, Signal will display the participants in a grid view (similar to WhatsApp group video calls). Users can swipe up on the screen to switch to a view that automatically focuses the screen on the person who is speaking, and update in real time as the active speaker changes.
Signal said that it has designed Group Video calls with Signal Private Groups as a foundation, using its RingRTC library for handling frame encryption and the logic around setting up and joining calls. Free group calls are available on Signal starting right now. Group calls are only supported in new style Signal groups. This means that users won’t see the call button in their legacy groups, but their legacy Signal groups will start automatically updating to New Groups in the coming weeks. Group calls are currently limited to 5 participants, but the company says that it is working to let users have even more participants in a group call soon.