Messenger is fast becoming an all-star utility player for Facebook. Every time someone looks up, it seems, the social network introduces a new function that runs on it.
A year ago, Facebook enabled video calling on Messenger. Last week at its F8 conference, the company released a new Messenger platform for developers that includes a beta program for the popular Chatbots. Go here for more information on this.
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April 20 was the global rollout of free Group Calling on Messenger for iOS and Android smartphones. To enable a group conversation, users need only tap on the phone icon within the app. They then can manage up to 12 individual participants on the group call—read that as "invite" or "not invite"—on the next screen.
Chat friends the user wants to include will receive a Messenger call simultaneously. Invited participants who miss a call initially can join the call in progress by tapping the Phone icon in the group chat.
At any time, the initiator can see who's on the call and even send another ping to anyone who hasn't joined.
Telecoms? Who needs telecoms? For that matter, who needs conference calls? The old T-shirt and bumper-sticker message, "IP on Everything," is becoming only too true.
Microsoft's Skype and Google's Hangouts might want to take serious notice—all this functionality is free to Facebookers.
Users with the latest version of Messenger should see the phone icon appear in group conversations within the next day or so, Facebook noted. In its corporate blog, Facebook encouraged users to give it a try and then register feedback if possible.
Facebook apparently wants people who use voice apps to think Messenger before using their telecom phones. The network began offering VoIP three years ago, introducing audio calls in April 2014.
Last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed at F8 that Messenger already comprised 10 percent of all mobile VoIP calls globally. That's a solid adoption curve, but it helps that there are 1.49 billion Facebook users on Earth.
For Messenger to completely replace phones, of course, everybody would have to be Facebook subscribers, and it certainly makes it easier if everybody was "friends" with everybody else. That, of course, will never happen.
However, unlike phone numbers, Messenger enables users to easily block people they don't want to engage.