With the ongoing pandemic making New Year’s Eve a little different from those that have gone before, it will surprise few that services such as Messenger and WhatsApp saw record usage throughout the day and evening.

“Despite so many being apart from friends and family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people were still able to connect with each other the same way they’ve been connecting all year: through online video and audio calling, and in record numbers,” parent company Facebook said in a message posted on Sunday, January 3.

New Year’s Eve turned out to be the biggest day ever for Messenger group video calls (3+ people) in the U.S., with twice as many group video calls taking place compared to the average day. The most popular Messenger augmented reality effect used by people in the U.S. was “2020 Fireworks,” possibly because “2020 Drones” wasn’t available.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp saw more than 1.4 billion voice and video calls take place on New Year’s Eve globally, setting a new WhatsApp record for the most ever calls in a single day, and marking a 50% increase compared to the same day last year.

Across Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook also owns, there were more than 55 million live broadcasts globally during New Year’s Eve.

“In 2020, people turned to technology to stay in touch and get things done in the face of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, and video calling became arguably the most in-demand feature,” Facebook said.

Caitlin Banford, technical program manager at Facebook, noted how major usage spikes in March 2020 — when the pandemic began to take hold in parts of the U.S. — prompted its engineering team to make “unprecedented efficiency improvements” to its online services that also enabled it to be ready for the demands placed on them during a record-breaking New Year’s Eve.

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With the pandemic continuing, Facebook’s strengthened services are well placed to handle anything that comes their way over the next 12 months, ensuring people are able to stay in touch with family and friends until the vaccination process allows people to venture out with greater confidence.

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