Video calls could make Facebook Messenger a Skype killer

Facebook takes on Skype. Photo: Facebook

Facebook takes on Skype. Photo: Facebook

Facebook Messenger is today launching its assault on Skype with a new update that brings video calling to users on Android and iOS. The feature works over Wi-Fi and LTE, and it’s completely free.

After updating your Facebook Messenger app, you’ll find a new video camera icon inside your chats and alongside your contacts in your friends list; simply tap it to initiate a video call. Inside the video chat interface, you’ll find a button for switching between your front- and rear-facing cameras.

Stan Chudnovsky, head of Messenger at Facebook, told The Verge that video calling has been designed to work well even on relatively low-bandwidth cell networks, so it’ll help you stay connected even when you don’t have full LTE signal.

“In a demonstration, call quality was good even inside a building where we only had two bars of connectivity on LTE,” writes Casey Newton.

Facebook Messenger already has 600 million monthly active users who are making 10% of all phone calls over the Internet. Facebook doesn’t make any money from this, but the feature makes Messenger even more useful to users, and means they don’t need to switch to a rival service to gain access to additional features.

Video calling will play a similar role, and will almost certainly replace Skype for lots of users who are already connected on Facebook. It could also become integral to the new Facebook at Work program, though it’s geared towards the average user for now.

Video calling in Facebook Messenger is available today in Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, the U.K., the U.S. and Uruguay — and it’s coming soon to other markets.

Download the latest version of the app on Android and iOS now using the links below.