Facebook Messenger Adds Free WiFi Calls for iPhone Users: Report

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-01-17 Print this article Print

Jonathan Yarmis, principal analyst at Yarmis Group, said the new Facebook calling capabilities are ultimately predictable.

"From the perspective of their grand vision, it is about connecting people," said Yarmis. "They've been expanding the text-messaging capabilities of Facebook, so expanding it now to voice is a natural extension."

At the same time, because competitors are always adding features, Facebook has to stay agile, he said. "Offensively, it makes sense," and defensively, Facebook has similar services from Microsoft's Skype to contend with, he said. "If you want to protect your flank, it makes sense."

Facebook is in a way a victim of its own success, said Yarmis, because "at some level, what they've done is they've maxed out certain markets. As many Americans who want to be on Facebook are already on Facebook."

That means that continuing to expand that user base is just getting harder and harder, he said. "So now what they need to do is to get existing users to spend more time with the platform. And this is a good one. It gives people yet another reason to go to Facebook."

Another topic the new service also raises is how cell phone carriers will react to their users gaining the ability to make calls through Facebook without having to use their cell phone minutes, said Yarmis.

"It will be interesting to see how this plays out," he said. "The voice question has always been a thorny one when it comes to the carriers. On one hand, they don't mind terribly at times to off-load some cellular traffic off of their networks. On the other hand, they still make money selling voice time. It's an interesting yin and yang. It depends upon how it gets implemented or used. Carriers are either going to tolerate it or hate it."

The Facebook Messenger app arrived for iPhone and Android in August 2011 when Facebook launched the service to provide one-to-one and group messaging for both platforms.

Messenger is an extension of Facebook Messages for the desktop, so each text, chat, email and message a user sends exists in one place within the app and is also saved as part of any ongoing conversations on Facebook.


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