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Facebook Messenger Rolls Out Group Calling
Posted April 21, 2016
Facebook Messenger Rolls Out Group Calling
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By Dan Heilman. Updated April 21, 2016 11:58AM

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Social media giant Facebook is expecting businesses and individual users will find its new option for group phone calls easier to use than other VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services. In a Facebook post yesterday, David Marcus, the company's VP of Messaging Services, announced the launch of a group-calling feature that lets Messenger users simultaneously dial up to 50 other people over the Internet.

The free service is available to all Facebook users who have the most recent Android and iOS application updates. While the new feature can be used by individuals, Facebook is also including capabilities that make it attractive to businesses.

Facebook said arranging and executing a group conference call has never been easier or within the reach of more smartphone owners -- even those whose phone numbers the call initiators don't have on hand.

Courting Business?

In addition to initiating calls with numerous friends or family members family members and friends, users can also use the group-calling feature for work calls. In addition, companies on the Facebook for Work platform will probably find it convenient.

The feature also comes as Facebook has started to offer more ways for consumers to interact with businesses. The company recently rolled out Messenger Links, a feature that businesses can use to make it fast and easy for people to start message threads with them. Facebook also debuted Messenger Codes, unique codes that people can scan in using the cameras in their phones to open threads with businesses. The company also rolled out a suite of tools and updates to help Facebook users better connect with the businesses using the platform.

With the updated Messenger feature, a user can initiate group calls by tapping the Phone symbol in Messenger, then selecting the members to dial. Individual participants can be managed on the next screen.

Everyone the initiator includes in the call will get a Messenger call at the same time, and can then then either accept, ignore or decline the call. An invited member who misses the call, can join a call in progress tapping the Phone symbol in the group chat. Messenger also allows users to see the list of people who are on the call as well as send messages to members.

Mixed Reaction

Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular features, boasting more than 900 million active users at last count. The company began offering VoIP service in 2013 and debuted one-on-one audio calling in 2014. Last year the company said that Messenger made up 10 percent of all mobile VoIP calls globally. Reports indicate that group video calling could be the next innovation to come to Messenger. Slack and Snapchat both have video messaging platforms in the works or are in the process of being enhanced.

Feedback to the new calling feature among Facebook Messenger users was mostly positive, with the usual number of exceptions. Some users said they would prefer to share files and documents using the app, while others called for an all-in-one messaging service for Android phones instead of piecemeal additions. “As you roll out new features on Facebook apps, remember those of us who use low-RAM devices and retain versions compatible with our phones,” another user said.

Much like other Facebook applications, Messenger is almost always being upgraded. Messenger has already included games, AI chatbots and a payment feature that lets users send and get cash.

Image Credit: Facebook (David Marcus).

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