An update to Facebook’s messaging app for Android phones allows people in Canada to make voice calls to their Facebook friends also using the app for free (even if those friends are outside of Canada). The new feature puts the company in direct competition with other call providers such as Skype (owned by Facebook ally Microsoft) and cellphone networks.
Facebook is already the most-popular app or service on both Android and iOS smartphones. A voice calling feature could significantly eat into usage of both regular phone calls and other Internet calling services such as Skype, particularly if Facebook makes it possible to call any number. The company said in January that the calling feature would be coming but didn’t indicate exactly when.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said publicy that he’s not interested in releasing a phone, saying on his company’s most recent earnings call that: “It’s not the right strategy for us.” But he hasn’t spoken or been questioned publicly about how far his company might go in making voice calling part of the service.