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Now Facebook steals Skype's thunder with video calling

Barry Collins
28 Apr 2015
Facebook video calling
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Social network adds video calling to its battery of services

Facebook is adding video calling to its Messenger app, providing another alternative to services such as Skype and Apple's FaceTime. The app will allow users to initiate a video call simply by pressing the video camera icon during a text chat session.

Facebook added voice calling to Messenger at the beginning of 2013, and is now going a step further with full video calling available to users in 19 countries, including the UK. The move is a direct challenge to dedicated messaging services, such as Skype, not least because of Facebook's enormous established user base of well over 1 billion people. 

The social network claims that 600 million people already use Messenger at least once a month, and the company will be looking to boost that figure with free video calling over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. The biggest challenge for Facebook will be managing demand for the bandwidth-intensive service. In our experience, Facebook voice calls are already prone to stutter and drop out, although the company insists that its video calling service will be "fast, reliable and high quality".  

Facebook has been relentlessly evolving Messenger over the past year. Last year it was extracted from the main Facebook app on iOS and Android and released as a separate app, much to the annoyance of many Facebook devotees. Earlier this year, the company announced it would allow Messenger users to send money to one another, although that service is currently only available in the US. The company is also planning to release a business version of Messenger as it evolves its Facebook at Work product. 

Video calling is available now for the Messenger apps on iOS and Android, and is cross-platform, allowing iPhone users to make a video call to friends using Android and vice versa. Windows Phone support hasn't been announced, even though Microsoft (which owns Skype) is also a shareholder in Facebook.  

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