January 4, 2013
Facebook Begins Testing Voice Feature In The Messenger App
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Facebook is proving once again that they want to be THE way by which we communicate with friends and family with their latest addition to Facebook Messenger.For now, users can shoot off recorded messages to anyone in the messages app, incorporating voice with text. The example given shows a helpful friend giving spoken directions to dinner, as the written directions would have been too difficult to type.
In the future, Messenger users may be able to make VoIP calls through the service.
Facebook is currently testing such a service for those in Canada. Each of these new features is a sign that Facebook will do whatever they can to make sure two or more people are using their service as platform on which to communicate with one another.
The addition of voice seems like an interesting choice. As it stands, the easiest way to speak with another person is to either meet them face-to-face or use the iPhone´s oft-forgot “Phone” app. Recording a voice message in what is essentially an email or text conversation essentially breaks up the flow, asking the recipient(s) to go a little out of their way to tap the play button and listen. These recipients will also have to be sure to be in a place where they can actually hear this message, avoiding noisy roadways, restaurants, or anywhere else people gather.
Essentially, Facebook has integrated voice mail into their Messenger service, and while voice mail is still a viable form of communication, it has nearly become obsolete. Even with the iPhone´s Visual Mail feature, many users (including this writer) only need to know who had called. After all, the majority of voice mails are nothing more than a verbal confirmation or request to be called back. If the phone call was really that important, the person would simply call again.
While it certainly can´t hurt Facebook to give users a few more options when using the service, sending voice could add extra strain on their service. They likely have the strength of servers to handle this extra weight, (how many people will use this feature, anyway?) yet delivering voice as opposed to text uses quite a bit more data.
Facebook is also bringing VoIP calls to the service, making it available “in the next few weeks.”
Currently, only those users in Canada are able to take advantage of this service in beta. Again, this feature is redundant, as anyone who wants to take advantage of a VoIP call can use Skype.
There is one aspect which makes Facebook a better candidate for VoIP calls over Skype: Your friends.
As with any Facebook app (Messenger, Pages, etc) your friends are already loaded up and ready to be contacted. While their services may be tired and redundant, they´re also already tied into your social pipeline. They know who you want to talk to and how to reach them.
As with anything Facebook, it´s still left to be seen what they will gain from offering up this service to users. They might not take an Instagram approach and ask to sell your voice memos, but if they´re offering the service for free, they´re getting something out of the deal.