Facebook is bringing voice and video calling to its flagship social networking service, the latest attempt to fine-tune its communications features after spinning off Messenger as a separate app in 2014.
A few users will be able to enjoy voice and/or video calls from the main Facebook app beginning today, 30th August 2021. The new feature, although currently just a test, is meant to reduce the need to jump back and forth between Facebook’s main app and its Messenger service, according to Connor Hayes, the Director of Product Management at Facebook (for Messenger).
Facebook confirmed to The Verge that it is testing voice and video calls in “several countries, including the US.” The company did not share how many users will see the features or what this means for the standalone Messenger app in the future, other than “for a full-featured messaging, audio and video call experience, people should continue using Messenger.”
This is not the first time Facebook is carrying these tests out as, last year, the company started testing a limited version of Messenger’s inbox in the main Facebook app. What is interesting is that Messenger was once built into Facebook’s main app, but the company took it out seven years ago, forcing users to download a separate app in order to send private messages from a mobile phone.
Voice and video calls are two of several Messenger features that Facebook has introduced in its other products, like Portal video cameras and Oculus virtual reality headsets. The company has not shared whether it plans to bring other parts of Messenger back into the fold, but Messenger’s Director of Product Management did confirm that “you are going to start to see quite a bit more of this over time.”
Lukewarm reception by the public
However, the early feedback is that adding voice calls and videos calls to the main Facebook app does not make sense as removing Messenger capabilities in the first place. It admittedly means one less app to switch between while you are doing other things on your phone or computer, but it also means that you will have to interact with Facebook on the way, something that not everyone is currently willing to do, especially with the data privacy scandals that have already haunted Facebook in the past.
Facebook has already received backlash for unifying Messenger and Instagram direct messages, and going ahead with the plans to also integrate Messenger with the Facebook main app is already playing with fire and might end badly for the company’s reputation.
The whole point of these mergers might be trying to make Facebook an even bigger giant, therefore more difficult to break up, as regulators have been unsuccessfully trying to do. US federal regulators filed an antitrust lawsuit earlier in August to try and force Facebook to spin off its Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions.