The Daily Mail today asks whether Facebook is gearing up to take on the mobile carriers by adding voice capabilities to its Messenger apps for Android and iOS users. The social network this week launched an offering enabling users to send one-minute voice messages to each other, as TechCrunch reported, and is testing a feature that will let friends make VoIP calls to each other. While the new features are currently available only in Canada, Facebook will presumably launch them in other markets as it irons out the wrinkles.
Voice calling — and, perhaps eventually, video calling — certainly makes Facebook Messenger a more compelling app. And there’s no question that Facebook’s massive user base can have an impact on a carrier’s bottom line. But there’s precious little evidence to suggest that VoIP is truly a threat to carrier voice revenues: Because it isn’t truly mobile, it’s more of a complementary technology than a replacement for cell service.
But as this TechBlitz post astutely points out, Facebook’s real impact here may be in reinventing the phone. By enabling calls between friends, Facebook essentially eliminates the hassle of using a phone number. That isn’t exactly unprecedented, of course, and it won’t kill the concept of phone numbers overnight. But it will be a big step in that direction.