The social network’s mobile IM app is more like Skype now, as it also allows users to have video conversations, besides text-based ones.
The update announced on Monday for both the iOS and Android versions of the Messenger app carries video chat functionality, fact that puts Facebook’s app in direct competition with Skype and Viber. Currently, the update is only available for 18 markets including U.K., France, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal and the U.S., but there’s no doubt that Facebook will expand it to more countries in the near future.
“More and more of everything starts from a text conversation,” explained Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger’s Head of Product. “We think the same thing will happen with video.”
According to Chudnovsky, adding video chat capabilities to Facebook Messenger was the next logical step. In case you’re confused by the fact that the social network hasn’t added video calls to its other messaging app (WhatsApp), then you should know that this feature has been rumored for a while and it will be coming there soon, as well.
Starting a video call on Facebook Messenger is equally easy on Android and iOS. When initiating a text-based conversation with one of your Facebook contacts, you’ll see a camera in the upper right corner, provided that you’re in one of the countries where the update is currently available.
It’s becoming clear that Facebook Messenger goes well beyond just text-based messaging. Recently, the developers of this app have added peer-to-peer payments and even turned Messenger into an open platform others can build upon.
There has also been a major change in focus in terms of the devices targeted with each of Facebook’s messaging apps. Whereas WhatsApp was promoted as a perfect IM solution for emerging countries where Internet connection are not exactly top of the class, Facebook Messenger is also getting praised now for its compatibility with low-end devices and slow Internet connections.
It’ll be interesting to see what other type of functionality will Facebook add in the near future to its messaging apps. The good news is that their main app and Messenger are no longer the resource hogs they used to be not long ago. It also remains to be seen how the video call quality will stack against Skype’s or Viber’s.