The social media arms race is escalating yet again, with Facebook’s introduction of free mobile video calling as part of its mobile Messenger app, putting it in direct competition with Skype and Apple’s FaceTime. Previously, Messenger allowed users to make voice calls; the new feature comes as other social media platforms have unveiled new capabilities including video calling.
To use the Messenger video call function, Facebook members just have to tap a video icon within the app and choose the contact they want to call. They can also open up a video call from within a text or voice call if they feel the need.
In one major difference from its competitors, Messenger allows users to make video calls between different operating systems -- for example, with one user calling from an Android device and the other user receiving the call on iOS. That’s an important distinction from Facetime, which like most other Apple products is exclusive of other operating systems.
According to Facebook, over 600 million people use Messenger every month. The social media juggernaut recently introduced Messenger Platform, giving app developers the capability to integrate their products with Messenger, as well as Business on Messenger for business-to-consumer communications.
Last month, Facebook announced that users can send money to friends via Messenger, pitting it against other peer-to-peer payment services like Square, Venmo, and Snapcash, introduced last year by Snapchat and powered by Square.
The service will become available over the next few months for Android, iOS, and desktop users. Facebook is offering the service free, with no transaction fees, and currently says it doesn’t plan to monetize it. It also emphasized that the service only allows payments between individual Facebook users, not payments to businesses.