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Facebook is rolling out group-calling on Messenger

Facebook plans to keep adding features to its Messenger app, which already has more users than Skype.

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Facebook's Messenger app now includes free video calls over WiFi or 3G/4G cellular connections. Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the company's F8 developer conference in San Francisco in March 2015.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File

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The Facebook Messenger app might soon become even more popular, thanks to a new group-calling feature that will allow users to make simultaneous phone calls to multiple friends.

Facebook's head of messaging products David Marcus announced the new feature Wednesday.

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The feature will make Messenger more competitive with Google Hangouts, Microsoft's Skype, and Slack – all of which already support free group calling. Although late to the table, Facebook has one key advantage over its competitors: Messenger already has 900 million active users. In comparison, Skype has 300 million users and Slack has just 2 million.

Here's how it works: To initiate a group phone call, click the phone icon and then add the numbers of up to 50 friends. Any friend who doesn't pick up right away can still join in as long as the call is ongoing – a feature also offered by Google Hangouts.

So far, Messenger will only allow group voice calls or video one-on-one calls, but video group calls may appear in a future upgrade.

In 2015, Messenger increased its user base by 31 percent, in part because that year Facebook allowed people without Facebook accounts to use the app. Nielsen dubbed Messenger the fastest growing app of the year.

Facebook plans to make Messenger the "everything" app, ultimately providing enough features to eliminate the need for any other apps. And it looks like Facebook is inching closer to making that happen, continuously adding features currently offered by other apps.

In recent months, Facebook announced several new features for the app, ranging from in-store payment to "Secret Conversations," a tool that will allow users to have encrypted conversations with their friends. The app already allows users to order Uber and Lyft rides, as well as transfer money to friends.

Next will be an artificial intelligence program that can have conversations with users and assist assist them with online transactions, including shopping, booking flights, and making reservations at restaurants.


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