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Facebook’s latest experimental app is a party line

Only ’80s kids will get this reference.
Kris Holt, @krisholt
May 26, 2020
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Screenshots of Facebook's audio-only group call app CatchUp.
Facebook

The latest experimental app from Facebook's research and development division is for voice-only group calls. CatchUp looks to remove the headache of arranging a time to chat with all of your loved ones. You can set a status indicating that you're ready to talk, and up to eight people can join a call.

You can create groups for your friends and family so that when everyone's available, you can start a call with all of them with a single tap. As with some of the company's other communication apps, you won't need a Facebook account to use CatchUp as it works with your phone's contact list. Through CatchUp's privacy settings, you can determine which of your contacts can hop into calls with you.

Facebook was working on CatchUp before the spread of COVID-19 confined most people to their homes, it told TechCrunch. However, the pandemic prompted the NPE Team, the R&D division, to speed up development.

Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed plans to allow a large number of employees to work from home permanently. In concert with that shift to remote work, Facebook is working on more communication tools, and CatchUp certainly falls under that edict.

Many of us have turned to video calls to stay in touch as the pandemic has taken hold, but you might not always want to show your face to family and friends, no matter how close you might be. So, CatchUp might be a reasonable solution for keeping in touch. It’s available in the US on iOS and Android for a limited time. 

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