Facebook adds group voice calls to Messenger

Facebook's 900 million Messenger users can start making group voice calls today.

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In the space of a year, Facebook's Messenger has grown from 700 million to 900 million active users per month.

Image: ZDNet

Facebook has announced a new feature on Messenger that lets anyone make a voice call to dozens of friends at once over the internet.

Facebook's Messenger boss, David Marcus, said in a Facebook post that the group voice calling feature is rolling out over the coming day to the Messenger app's 900 million users. It will be available on the latest version of Messenger for Android and iOS.

People with the new version should see a phone icon in group conversations. Tapping the phone icon will initiate a call to members of that group.

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Messenger has quickly become a top priority at Facebook, gaining new features on a regular basis to keep users coming back to the platform to communicate.

In the space of a year, Messenger has grown from 700 million to 900 million active users per month. Together with WhatsApp, Facebook's messaging platforms transmit 60 billion messages a day, three times the number of SMS sent each day.

Group voice calls puts Messenger that much closer to Skype feature-wise -- only Messenger now has three times the number of users.

Group video calls is one feature which Skype and Google Hangouts offer that Messenger still does not -- but given the pace at which Facebook is adding new features to Messenger, it wouldn't be a shock to see group video calling arrive in the future. Facebook rolled out one-to-one voice calls for Messenger in 2014 and one-to-one video calls exactly a year ago, when it also lay the foundation for businesses to use Messenger to chat with customers.

At this year's F8 Facebook rolled out Messenger codes to make it easier to connect with businesses, and its beta for businesses to launch chat bots on Messenger. Facebook says its artificial intelligence will enable bots to deliver a better customer experience than real people, and make it more efficient to communicate than other channels like SMS.

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