Coronavirus impact: Voice and video calls on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger hit new peaks
Post the COVID-19 outbreak, with work from home becoming a global reality almost overnight, communication tools and software are recording unprecedented levels of engagement. Zoom's sudden rise in valuation and usage is well documented by now.
On social media platforms too, voice and video communication are at an all-time high.
In a recent call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that WhatsApp and Messenger were seeing "big surges" in usage as the coronavirus pandemic compels people to stay indoors.
Voice and video calls on WhatsApp are at double their normal volume, and "well beyond" the app's traditional annual peak: New Year’s Eve. Facebook Messenger too has recorded a significant spike in calls. "In terms of stats, we're seeing very elevated levels of use in Italy and in all countries that have been affected," Zuckerberg revealed.
Besides regular communication, medical experts are also using WhatsApp to reach out to patients and people in quarantine in some of the world's worst-hit areas.
"There's psychiatrists and doctors in Lombardy [in Italy] who are using WhatsApp to make calls to people to make sure that they can cope with the stress and anxiety of the quarantines. And reaching out to dozens and dozens of patients beyond normal patients in order to be able to help and support people."
Facebook, in fact, is working overtime to ramp up its servers to cope with the increased usage. As the COVID-19 outbreak impacts more areas, the social networking giant expects an exponential rise in concurrent users.
"Right now it isn’t a massive outbreak in majority of countries yet, but if it gets there, then we really need to make sure we’re on top of this from an infrastructure perspective... to make sure that things don’t melt down, and we can continue to provide the level of service that people need in a time like this," Zuckerberg shared.
Last week, WhatsApp announced a $1 million grant for the International Fact-Checking Network in a bid to build a credible coronavirus information hub.
Facebook is also rolling out a Coronavirus Information Centre at the top of users' Newsfeeds. This is an attempt to curb widespread misinformation related to COVID-19. The tool will roll out in the US and Europe, and in other countries in the coming weeks.
It will provide greater visibility to verified information from the World Health Organisation, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, public health experts, and local governments of countries.
Zuckerberg hinted that the tool would be enabled in multiple languages to reach the farthest corners of the world.
"The goal is to have it out very widely. I don’t have a number on the number of languages it’s going to be in, but certainly we want it to be global," he told the media.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)