With the press of a button, Facebook began playing catch-up in the world of video calling. The social media giant is rolling out free video chat in its Messenger app, adding a feature already offered by its leading competitors, including Apple (FaceTime), Google (Hangouts) and Microsoft (Skype).
We reached out to Facebook for comment and were directed to the company's online announcement, written by Stan Chudnovsky, Head of Product for Messenger and Param Reddy, Engineering Manager.
"Today, we’re introducing video calling in Messenger," according to the announcement. "Now you can have face-to-face conversations with your friends and the people you care about, via Messenger. You can quickly start a video call from any conversation with just one tap. If you’re messaging with someone and realize that words just aren’t enough, you can simply choose the video icon in the top right corner of the screen and start a video call right from within an existing Messenger conversation."
The free service is available on both iOS and Android devices, and connections are device-agnostic -- one person can be using an iPhone and the other can be using a Samsung Galaxy 6.
The roll out today covered a large number of countries, including: Belgium, Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the U.K., and the U.S. Facebook said that it will be rolling out to other regions and locales over the coming months.
Although there was some initial pushback when Facebook split off Messenger as a separate app from its main mobile application, it has proven to be a popular product. Over 600 million people currently use Messenger, and the app accounts for over 10 percent of all voice over IP calls around the world.
While Facebook will not generate any revenues directly from its video calling service, the feature will assist the company in maintaining a tight grasp on the communication habits of its users, which in turn is directly linked to the company's advertising goals.
The ability to make video calls follows quickly on the heels of other additions to the Messenger app, including the ability of users to send each other money, and the announcement of the Messenger Platform that allows other developers to build applications that incorporate Messenger.
While it remains to be seen whether Messenger's video call capability proves attractive to users, there is relatively little downside to a free service, particularly one that is integrated into a social network shared by the vast majority of people.
The chief challenge for video calls is that they are not as discreet and quiet as texting or instant messaging. It's difficult to use any app's video calling capability in class or a library, for instance. And it's not the easiest way to have a conversation when walking down a busy street.
Similarly, some people like the fact that typing messages creates a record of a conversation. There's no mechanism right now for recording Messenger video calls, and no indication from Facebook that such a feature might be introduced.
Read more on: Facebook
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, Tech News
Posted: 2015-04-29 @ 4:07am PT
For all its add-ons and extra features, Facebook still remains a walled-garden application. The real problem lies in the many different apps we use to communicate with friends or colleagues today and it literally leads to scattered conversations across various messaging services. Ideally, I should be able to choose my preferred messaging service and use that for everything no? It should be just like email to be able to communicate with each other.