Facebook Testing Messenger-Based VoIP in Canada (And it’s Amazing)

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Facebook is dipping its toes into the waters of VoIP with an update to Messenger in Canada letting users call each other through the iOS app. For the rest of the world, the update allows short “push to talk” messages. There can be little doubt that Facebook truly wants to be your hub for not just your digital life, but your life in general.

See the update below for the results of the real-world test

Not happy with just trying to break into the mobile messaging space, a move into VoIP (and it follows video would follow) represents a push into our lives beyond just statuses, photos, and messages. Live, two-way, VoIP calling has huge potential for disrupting communications on a large scale.

The Verge (and others) broke the news—

Facebook today began testing a new feature in its Messenger app that lets Canadian users call each other for free anywhere they have a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. The test for now only applies to Messenger for iOS, but could roll out to Android users, as well as people worldwide, if the test goes well. Those outside Canada will today receive an update on both Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS that lets users send each other short “push to talk” voice messages (pictured). While voice messages instantly put Messenger on par with popular apps Voxer and HeyTell, VoIP calling is a much bigger deal, and would have enormous ramifications if it were to roll out to all Facebook users.

Via The Verge

But loading the app on my iPhone just now, I don’t see the update yet that allows for VoIP calling. As soon as I do though, I’ll give it a test and report back here with the results.

Regardless of how well it works at the start—and Canada is a perfect plan to test with our smaller, but very techie population—the long-term potential for disruption of how we communicate is huge.

Except…

Two things about this test trouble me. One is the fact that none of us really trust Facebook as far as we can throw them. I avoid using Facebook messages for important conversations unless I absolutely have no choice. There is just too much potential risk of something private accidentally (or intentionally) becoming public. Second is the demographic shift in Facebook. Nothing I’m hearing about Facebook from teens makes me think they are still flocking to it for communicating with friends. It’s the old teen adage, once your parents (and grandparents) like something, it’s not cool any more. I don’t see that Facebook can really grow a VoIP service with a distrustful population of users who already have a slew of other (and better) options for VoIP.

Still, I’m happy to take one for the team and give it a try. Who knows, it could be really good and offer some interesting features that Skype and others don’t have.

Update…real-world test:

I just gave my friend John Biehler a call iPhone to iPhone and we were both blown away by how clear, crisp, and awesome the call sounded. We were both calling from iPhone 5 to iPhone 5. John was (since he’s at work I think) on a corporate network and I’m on my better-than-average cable Internet connection. Still…holy smokes. Regardless of my reservations about Facebook rolling it out, the technology is rock solid. If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is John’s tweet just now:

Okay Facebook, I guess it’s game on.

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  • dangi0us_dave

    face book Messenger update in app store v2.1 and says supports voice message

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Right, for folks outside of the Great White North (or mossy green here in Vancouver), you can send recorded voice messages to people. A sort of push to talk thing. Up here, though, it’s full VoIP.

  • http://twitter.com/gregcohn Greg Cohn

    Amazing scoop Tris. Mind blown.

  • DEFMAD

    I can see the telco’s frowning on this, then I can see dollar signs in their eyes as they think of ways to bleed people dry.

  • Brice

    Just updated I like the new feature don’t need voxor anymore

  • Kiwiholden

    Facebook already uses Skype for the desktop fb to fb and Skype to fb. Are they working with Skype on this.

    The big question is how long till we can make calls to and from Facebook, Skype, Xbox kinect interchangeably.

    I tried making a call to my ma using video kinect on the Xbox to her using windows live messager and it told her to download Skype (now that ms own it) but although I could see her online she couldn’t see me and it didn’t connect so I had to use Skype on my iPad.

    There is a few services using Skype at the moment but it’s all a bit fragmented

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      There is no hint either for or against Skype working in the background here. All I know is that the call worked flawlessly.