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Facebook’s standalone messaging app Messenger has announced that it is rolling out audio group calling on mobile, both iOS and Android globally. This can be done by tapping on the phone icon in a group chat to start a phone call, and individual participants can be managed on the next screen.

TechCrunch reports that a maximum of 50 people can be added to the call. If a user misses the initial call, they can join the call if it’s still in progress by tapping the phone icon in the group chat. Since participants can see all other participants, they can ping those who haven’t joined. The report makes a valid point when it says that it’s much easier to block people on Facebook than it is when one gives away their phone number to someone. A phone number virtually gives the other person the ability to message on WhatsApp or other messaging services, leading to all sorts of privacy invasion and awkwardness, a thing journalists would especially be familiar with.

Messenger bots: Earlier this month, Facebook opened its Messenger Send/Receive API that supports bot development on its chat platform to all developers. The API can be used to provide various kinds of bots on Messenger, including for weather, traffic updates, shopping receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages etc., which users can access by interacting with services that provide them. All developers can now access the API and its documentation to build apps, but will still require to get an approval from Facebook before the apps go live.

Also read: WhatsApp is eating telecom (or trying to)

Active users: In January, we reported that Messenger had crossed 800 million active monthly users, inching closer to the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger’s 900 million active monthly users. Messenger was released as a standalone app for web in 2014.

Facebook had launched a revamped version of its Messenger app, allowing users to sign up even without a Facebook account way back in 2012, a service it re-launched in June 2015 to allow users sign up with only a phone number. Facebook had also added voice calling feature on its Android Messenger for users in India in March 2014, a year after it was launched in the US on both Android and iOS. Messenger was previously colloquially called Facebook chat and was within the social network. The company plans to make money through ads on Messenger but did not provide a timeline for the same.

Other Messenger developments:

– In December 2015, the company allowed its users to get a Uber cab from Messenger itself in the San Francisco Bay area.

– In November 2015, Facebook launched an Android messenger app called Work Chat to allow co-workers to message individually and in group chats, share pictures, videos, stickers and make voice calls.

– In June 2015, Messenger introduced location sharing, where users could send a map of their whereabouts, accessible from the ‘More’ icon.

– In March 2015, Facebook said opened up Messenger for business, allowing companies to chat with people during the checkout flow, send order updates etc.

– In the same month, it announced that it would allow P2P money transfers over the Messenger app in the US.

– In April 2015, it added a dedicated chat interface for the web and added a video calling feature in Messenger.

Also read: 
Privacy – Apple, FB, Google working on further encrypting services: report
– Facebook plans to open up Messenger for publishers: Report

Image Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns under CC BY 2.0