If there is any love left in your love/hate relationship with Facebook, then now might be the time to summon it.
The tech giant that practically invented social media seems to be constantly testing the limits of our patience as it continues its decade-long ethical struggles with privacy, truth, and the advertising dollar. But it can, on occasion, still deliver a social experience that others only imitate.
The latest example of “good” Facebook is the recently revealed 2019 Facebook Messenger update. Announced partially by Mark Zuckerberg himself during the F8 developer conference in San Jose, the update promises three big changes to the messaging app that may see it end the year as the most complete social video calling platform.
First, Messenger on iOS is getting smaller to reduce the demands it makes on your mobile. Secondly, there’s a desktop version of the app’s video calling function coming to both Mac and PC. And finally, video callers will soon be able to incorporate streamed media into their Messenger conversations.
All of these features currently exist in our digital lives but incorporating them into an already powerful platform should result in the best free, stand-alone social video service available.
Let’s take a quick look at what each new feature has to offer.
The 2019 Facebook Messenger Update
- A Sleeker Messenger for Your Smartphone
- Desktop Messenger Video Calls
- Streamed Media Sharing in Calls
1. A Sleeker Messenger for Your Smartphone
For all its revolutionary impact, Facebook and its messaging offshoot is a rather cumbersome beast. After years of adding feature after feature and taking the Messenger app into the realms of gaming, digital payments, and bots, it had grown so large it couldn’t even be used in countries with data premiums. So Facebook has announced that its flagship messaging service will be slimmed by 20 percent to better fit the iOS mobile platform.
If you’re constantly running up against storage maximums, you’ll be glad of the new space savings that a lighter Messenger app offers.
The move comes several years after the same approach was introduced on Android with Facebook Light. We’re most likely to notice the difference on startup–the app launch should become several seconds faster than the current model once the new version launches later this year.
In an age typified by memory-greedy apps that aim for mass appeal at the expense of leveraging smartphone capacity, the move is welcome. If you’re a devoted Messenger fan and don’t have a bunch of other apps crowding for attention on your phone, the sleeker version won’t change your world. But if you’re constantly running up against photo and video storage maximums, you’ll be glad of the new space savings that a lighter Messenger app offers.
2. Desktop Messenger Video Calls
Facebook wants a greater presence in your professional life. The company launched its own workplace collaboration app–Workplace by Facebook–in 2017, and is now hoping to use Messenger to earn a spot on your desktop alongside your documents and spreadsheets. It has announced a modified version of the mobile app that focuses on chat and video calls will be made available to Mac and PC users later this year–the F8 conference was not strong on giving deadlines.
It is good to see that the group video calls of up to 50 people will get to be expanded across a proper video calling-sized screen.
The new platform is intended as an “always on” addition to your desktop that you access during work. Whatever the motivation, however, it is good to see that the group video calls of up to 50 people that are part of Facebook Messenger’s central appeal will get to be expanded across a proper video calling-sized screen. Smartphone video calling has given us the freedom to make a video call and attend a virtual meeting anywhere life takes us, but any regular video conferencer knows that squeezing more than four faces onto a smartphone screen can be frustrating.
We’ve been impressed with the quality of the video calls on Messenger, even if its intuitive design is a little conservative, so we are excited by the possibility of taking its connectivity to a bigger screen–as long as all our contacts and groups transfer across to the desktop seamlessly.
3. Streamed Media Sharing in Calls
Perhaps the most exciting potential 2019 Facebook Messenger update was the promise of shared streamed media within group video calls–again, coming later this year. As with desktop video calls and streamlined Facebook apps, we’ve seen this technology before, but the tech giant has the resources to take it further.
Facebook’s vast resources might allow users to sign up for prestige content such as Netflix movies or live sporting events.
Apps like Airtime and Rabbit currently allow users to stream live and on-demand video into their group video calls as if it were just another chat window. The tech lets you recreate the living room experience of watching a movie or listening to a song with friends–you can talk to and see each other the whole time while the media plays before you. Those companies have been largely restricted to public content such as YouTube and private account services like Spotify, but Facebook could change that. Its vast resources might allow users to sign up for prestige content such as Netflix movies or live sporting events. And, of course, there’s already Facebook Watch, where you can stream classic shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as original Facebook content.
Done correctly, the service could allow you to gather all your Messenger contacts around a virtual couch to watch the Superbowl or the latest Star Wars movie–as long as Facebook can swing the right advertising or rights agreement.
Of course, who knows what kind of consumer information Facebook might agree to share with the NFL or ESPN in return for the rights to broadcast live sports–but it would certainly put Messenger in a class of its own among the social video calling platforms.