Facebook Messenger: Free Voice Calling and Text Messaging

Streamline communication with your friends

Facebook Messenger is both a separate window inside the browser version of Facebook and a stand-alone mobile app. On mobile, Messenger shines as a platform for communicating with friends through text-based messaging, voice calls, and video calls. Here's an overview of how it works.

How Facebook's Messenger App Works

Most people use Facebook Messenger on their mobile devices. It functions similarly to most mobile-messaging services and is integrated deeply with Facebook's network graph.

Messenger cannot be used through the Facebook mobile app. To use it on a mobile device, install the mobile app version of Messenger.

When you open the app, you see a familiar Facebook design and a familiar way of doing things. It's your go-to app when you want to view your message history, initiate conversations, participate in group chats, play online games with friends, and make new friends on the social network.

Facebook Messenger lets you stay in touch with your contacts on the social network.

Chat histories sync between the mobile and desktop versions, providing a seamless user experience. That experience can vary based on the platform you use, however. The iOS and Android versions require slightly different levels of access to the phone's core messaging utilities (like the dialer).

Despite the relative integration between the Messenger app and your phone's operating system, you can always use the Messenger app to initiate Voice-over-IP calls, video chats, group text chats, and similar features.

How Facebook Messenger in a Browser Works

If you access Facebook via a web browser, you can see a list of your contacts on the right-hand side. Clicking one of them brings up their Messenger chat window and thread history. Alternatively, select the Messenger icon in the top-right of the screen to open your message history, which appears in reverse chronological order.

You can access Facebook Messenger in a browser by selecting the icon in the top-right.

You can enter a message from that window. You also have the option to transmit stickers, send money, play games, and post photos. Select the icons at the top of the chat window to initiate a voice call using your computer's speakers and microphone, or a video call using your webcam.

Facebook Messenger Pros and Cons

What We Like
  • Free and easy to use.

  • Part of the world's largest social platform.

  • Archive messages and personalize individual chats.

What We Don't Like
  • Privacy violations.

  • Behind-the-scenes location tracking uses battery power.

  • Doesn't use the same permissions as your Facebook account.

After Facebook's myriad privacy and security lapses of 2018, which gained traction in the mainstream press, power users became skeptical of the platform and its growth-at-any-price strategy. But it hasn't deterred many others from using Messenger.

The app does have its advantages. It's free and easy to use. It offers fun things like stickers and emoji, plus an easy way to chat through voice and video sessions. It's also a convenient way to send cash to friends.

With all the things Messenger does, it separates itself from other messenger services. Text chatting replaces MMS. Video chatting replaces iMessages and Hangouts. Voice calls replace your phone's built-in dialer. Sending cash replaces Venmo, Paypal, and Zelle.

Having all of these features in one place is convenient, but while you're signed in to the Facebook platform, the company collects data from your activities. Then, it uses this data to personalize the ads you see.

From a technical perspective, Messenger is a handy service, capable of doing a lot of things competently, but it's not really best for any specific communication task. Better apps are available that are optimized for specific features such as MMS, sending cash, and video conferencing.