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.
Some users, including those in the U.S., will be able to place voice or video calls from the Facebook app beginning Monday.
The new feature is just a test, but it’s meant to reduce the need to jump back and forth between Facebook’s main app and its Messenger service, said Connor Hayes, director of product management at Messenger.
Facebook also started testing a limited version of Messenger’s inbox in the core Facebook app last fall. Messenger was once built into Facebook’s app, but the company spun it out seven years ago, forcing users to download a separate app in order send private messages from a mobile phone.
Monday’s test is the latest in what has been a slow but consistent effort internally to integrate all of Facebook’s apps and services.
Facebook is starting to think of Messenger as a service rather than just a stand-alone app, Hayes said. That means people will use the technology alongside other things — say, relying on Messenger to video chat while watching videos or playing games on Facebook.
Voice and video calls that use Messenger technology are available on other Facebook platforms, including Instagram, Oculus and Portal devices.
“You’re going to start to see quite a bit more of this over time,” Hayes said. He describes Messenger as the “connective tissue for people to be together when apart, regardless of which service they’re choosing to use.”
Facebook first enabled messaging between its Instagram app and Messenger last September, and there are plans to bring the capability to its WhatsApp messaging service as well.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has argued that integrating the company’s messaging services is a benefit to users, letting them reach more people and reducing the need to download or jump between separate apps.
Critics argue that Facebook is intertwining its services in a way that could make it impossible to break the company up. Federal regulators filed an antitrust lawsuit last week to try and force Facebook to spin off its Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions.