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Facebook (s fb) is testing a new calling feature on its Messenger iOS (s aapl) app in Canada that could push more voice communications away from the carriers and help drive adoption of over-the-top VoIP calling apps. The social networking giant will let Canadian users call their friends over a Wi-Fi connection, mimicking similar functionality from VoIP calling apps like GTalk (s goog)or Skype(s msft). It’s part of an update to Messenger that also allows users to record a voice message and send it over — something those of us with fat fingers and complex texts will appreciate.
Users outside of Canada (and those using Android) can receive the Wi-Fi call attempts calls as a push-to-talk messages, and it’s unclear if or when Facebook plans to offer Android users similar Wi-Fi calling functionality. I am not a big Facebook user, but I love VoIP on my handset, and use a variety of apps to communicate via my phone over Wi-Fi. As Wi-Fi networks become more prevalent, these options are easier than ever to use.
Unfortunately, many are likely to view this as yet another closed platform method of communications like Apple’s FaceTime. Luckily no one is demanding that I use Facebook as the sole means to communicate with them. The cool, but also annoying truth, about this service and the myriad other VoIP services out there, is that voice used to be the domain of the telcos and now it’s available to everyone. We’re in the initial flush of figuring out what that means, so we’re still dealing with conversations via IM or text that go something like this:
Me: wait, you have to explain that to me in a call. How did he say it?
Friend: Okay once sec, you want phone, Skype, Gtalk or FaceTime?
But that will work itself out. What’s important now, is that voice is moving outside of the narrow confines and experiences of the telco network and that’s going to make things much more interesting. Even if Facebook calling doesn’t take off.