Facebook Inc introduced free video calling in its Messenger phone app on Monday as the company seeks to transform its mobile messaging service into a full-featured platform with the same reach as its 1.4 billion user social network.
Messenger, with more than 600 million users, now has a video icon at the top right corner of its screen. Earlier this year, Messenger launched voice and video calling between computers.
Messenger competes with Microsoft Corp’s Skype, Apple Inc’s FaceTime and Google Inc’s Hangouts, all of which allow video calls between mobile devices or computers.
At Facebook’s annual developer conference in March, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerburg said the social network would introduce myriad features within Messenger. For example, users can also send money to friends within the app. Facebook also unveiled a platform that enables developers to easily create apps that function within Messenger.
“Adding (video calling) to Messenger instead of the main Facebook app maybe ties in to Messenger’s mission where it’s a real core person-to-person app,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner Inc, a U.S. technology research and advisory firm. “Now they’re really enticing people with more features.”
Video calling is available on devices using Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems in Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay. Facebook said additional regions will be added in the next few months.