Facebook Messenger is breaking free with a new desktop app that can be used to video chat while stuck at home.
The company announced on Thursday that it’s releasing a standalone Messenger desktop app on macOS and Windows. Previously, it was only available as a separate app on mobile phones.
Originally announced at Facebook’s F8 conference last year, the new app comes at a time when millions of people around the world are stuck at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. It brings some obvious (albeit minor) advantages, like having Messenger in a window of its own and not having to track your browser tabs. Facebook didn’t mention this in its press materials, but standalone apps are typically faster and more responsive than apps that run in your browser.
Facebook’s list of features for the standalone Messenger app doesn’t differ much from the web-based Messenger experience. You still get free, unlimited group video calls, which sync across mobile and desktop platforms. Multitasking works, meaning you can do stuff in the background while chatting. It also supports GIFs and Dark Mode.
The news comes just a couple of weeks after Facebook completely overhauled its iOS Messenger app to make it faster and lighter. The timing is right, too, as videoconferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype and others race to offer the best experience for all the folks working at home. In my experience, Messenger is a solid video chat option in terms of call quality, though it is limited to only eight participants, which can be a deal-breaker for some users.
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Messenger is available today from the Mac App Store or the Microsoft Store.
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