Facebook launched free video calling in Messenger earlier this week. This new feature works over LTE and Wi-Fi, between smartphones on iOS and Android, and competes with Microsoft’s Skype, Google’s Hangouts and Apple’s FaceTime. It is available in Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the UK, the US and Uruguay and will expand into other markets in the coming months.
Facebook rolled out free mobile VOIP calling for Messenger last April and already accounts for more than 10% of mobile VOIP calls globally. With 600 million Messenger users and 1.4 billion Facebook members, the new VOIP video calling feature has a huge built-in potential caller base.
There was some public push-back when Facebook launched Messenger as a separate smartphone app. However, Facebook followed through Q1 2015, developing Messenger as a separate and robust platform. It launched the Messenger Platform, which lets developers easily create apps that integrate with Messenger. These apps in turn enable people to use creative new apps to have richer conversations with GIFs, photos, videos and audio clips. Facebook also began rolling out payments on Messenger to give people an easy, secure way to send money to friends. Finally, it announced a new way for people to communicate with businesses using Messenger with Business on Messenger. We’re really excited by the potential to build Messenger into a service that helps people to express themselves in rich new ways, and to access useful services.
In terms of how Messenger fits into Facebook’s overall strategy, there are a few possibilities. It could be following the Google model of providing services to create a “sticky” ecosystem that attracts and keeps users who ultimately drive its core Facebook ad revenue. Alternatively, Facebook may eventually add revenue generating features to the Messenger, including gaming and e-commerce. Businesses on Messenger opens up the enterprise market, with customer-service related applications. For example, they’ve already partnered with Zendesk. The genius of any one of these scenarios is that Facebook is developing and exploiting mobile in order to drive user base growth, which in turn feeds its core social network ad revenue.