facebookicon.pngFacebook will update its Facebook Messenger app later today, adding two significant new voice-related abilities, reports The Next Web. The first will allow Facebook users to record a voice message to send to friends in addition to the standard text and photo messages.

The second is potentially more significant — though is currently in limited beta testing for Canadian iOS users only. Facebook users will now have the option to make a VoIP phone call from one user to another.

Facebook has also said it will also begin the beta testing of a new VoIP calling feature within its iOS Messenger app, allowing users to establish a peer-to-peer connection and make calls without making a dent in their call allowance (although it will use existing data plans).

The only drawback is that voice calls (messages are available to all) will be available to Canadian users of the iOS Messenger app at launch.

To use the service, Canadian users will be able to log into their Messenger app, open a conversation with the person they want to call, hit the ‘i’ button in the top-right corner and selecting ‘Free Call.’ To send and receive calls, users will need to have the latest version of the app that is available today.

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Facebook’s efforts create a calling system that can potentially reach its more than 1 billion users, providing a massive competition to other VoIP services like Skype.

Facebook Messenger for the iPhone is a free download from the App Store. [Direct Link]

A previous version of this article said it was the Facebook iOS app that was updated. It is the standalone Facebook Messenger app that gained the new voice features.

So I can use my phone as a phone? Hmm… this changes everything.
Great. Facebook will now know how my voice sounds like. They will be able to sell this piece of information somehow.
And how much Data does it take per second on a conversation I wonder?

Over the cell network or wifi only I wonder…?

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Yay for Canada! Beta testers unite!

Why only Canada? Seems to be Facebook is copying bbm voice.

for once canadians get dibs on something first LOL

Great. Facebook will now know how my voice sounds like. They will be able to sell this piece of information somehow.

Exactly. So, Facebook makes its money off of owning your data, knowing your habits, and then selling all of that information to advertisers and data collection firms it partners with.

They’ve already proven they can’t be trusted with users’ information – why would users want to have FB now tap their phone conversations?

Will this be compatible with desktop Facebook? They’re not going to reach 1 billion users if they only provide their feature for mobile users.
There are several reasons why they are probably testing in Canada first.
1. The market is smaller so they can test on a smaller scale.
2. Canadians are more polite.
3. Canadians have less of a sense of entitlement.
4. Canadians still have more consumer confidence to “spend” money as the “downturn” did not affect Canada as badly as the US.
5. The cellular infrastructure in Canada is more robust than a lot of markets in the US.

When I was down in Vegas in the first half of December, I noticed that there were a lot of fellow Canadians there at the time. Canadians are travelling and spending more than Americans are right now and Facebook is ultimately an advertising platform much like the “free” google services. I’m surprise that Apple and Google have not thought of trials for services here in Canada as well.

Time for Apple to release the iVoip! Especially after facetime and imessage!
Insanely useless.

Why only Canada? Seems to be Facebook is copying bbm voice.

I was expecting that response. If it was flagged as “US-only”, which is very common for such services in beta, I betcha nobody in the US would think twice.

It’s probably limited to Canada due to a smaller test market. Canada has just as mature, but smaller, market as the US, so it’s a good testing ground. And maybe there’s a Canadian company assisting Facebook with the implementation. (but not RIM, haha)

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Wow, I can’t even imagine how much processing power and bandwidth that would be required at the Facebook data centers to handle a billion voice calls, if this would roll out worldwide some day.

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It’s possible it’s intentional to reduce coverage while they’re trialling the service and infrastructure. A scaling / stress test perhaps?

Skype uses a peer-to-peer system, and I expect Facebook will too. Only Apple chooses to channel everything through their own servers, but not sure if that has changed with iMessage and FaceTime.

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