Available for mobile users utilizing either a Wi-Fi or LTE data connection, Facebook has added a new video calling feature to Messenger for users in eighteen regions around the globe. Stacking up against products like Apple’s Facetime and Microsoft’s Skype, video calling in Facebook Messenger is completely free and can be activated by simply tapping the camera icon within the chat interface. You also have to select a friend to chat with prior to launching the call.
Once the call has been accepted by the other party, users have the ability to switch between the front-facing and rear cameras. Unlike Apple’s Facetime, there’s no need for the person you are calling to own an Apple device. As long as the users have the latest version of the messaging application, cross-platform communication is possible.
Interestingly, the new video calling feature is not limited to mobile devices. The Web-based version of Messenger also supports the video calling feature, assuming a webcam and microphone is connected to the computer. When the call is initiated, a pop-up window appears within the main browser and launches the call.
This new feature may be related to the recent acquisition of QuickFire Networks, a company that invested resources in developing video compression tools. That video compression technology is also likely being used for playing uploaded video to Facebook users, especially video that auto-plays when browsing the Facebook feed on a mobile device.
According to the announcement on the Facebook Newsroom, regions of the world that will have access to video calling this week include “Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the UK, the US and Uruguay.” Facebook management plans on rolling out the new feature to additional regions around the world in the near future.