Facebook has always wanted its Messenger application to be an all-in-one communications platform – a single program in which users can connect with each other in whatever medium they choose. On Tuesday, Messenger got an important new addition: free video calls, like those available in Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, for users living in the US, UK, Canada, and 15 other countries.
The video calls will run on the Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) protocol, and will work over WiFi and also 3G/4G cellular connections. If you’re chatting with a friend over text, you can tap a video cam symbol in the upper-right corner of your screen to begin a video chat. The chat will default to your telephone’s front-facing cam, however you can likewise switch to the back cam if you need to show your friend where you are or what you’re doing.
Messenger will automatically adjust the video relying upon the strength of your cell connection, so things don’t get excessively choppy. Facebook will automatically notify you if your connection becomes too weak for video, and you’ll have the choice of switching to an audio-only call to save bandwidth. You can likewise turn off your own video feed and bump up the quality of the incoming video, which would be useful in situations where one person is travelling and you want to be able to devote all available bandwidth to seeing what they’re seeing.
Facebook has offered video calling from inside its desktop application since 2011, when it partnered with Skype. At this moment mobile users and desktop users can’t make video calls to each other, however Facebook is planning to enable that feature soon, as indicated by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.
Facebook is likewise planning a large number of new features to be included in consequent updates to the Messenger application, including automatically-stabilized videos (so your photo stays relatively steady, even if you’re holding you’re holding your telephone at arm’s length) and group video chatting, which is now available in Skype and Google Hangouts, but not in FaceTime.
It’s worth mentioning that video chatting will chew through data rapidly if you’re on a mobile connection. Messenger uses efficient encoding to attempt to minimize the measure of bandwidth required for a call, however users should still attempt to stick to making video calls over WiFi whenever possible. Facebook likewise offers an approach to prevent videos that appear in your News Feed from auto-playing, which helps users avoid from burning through their monthly mobile data allotment too rapidly.