Facebook has changed its Messenger for iPhone app to allow users to make free voice calls to their online friends. All it takes is clicking a new "free call" button to get connected over a WiFi connection. But will this be expensive for Facebook? Not at all.
Some see the move as a gambit to attract teenagers. There have been indications that younger users have begun to turn away from Facebook, spending less time on it and gravitating toward other social networks, such as Foursquare and Twitter.
Although free voice calling might seem to be an expensive way to keep teens tethered, it isn't for several reasons:
But if free phone calls are unlikely to be a big draw among teenagers, why would Facebook bother? For the data. Enabling a phone call will allow the company to capture all sorts of useful information, such as mobile numbers, length of calls and even negative information like which Facebook users never talk on the phone.
All that data enters the giant bucket that Facebook has been collecting, which will also eventually contain information from the graph searches that people do, indicating their ongoing interests. That could be a lot of something for nothing.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Roebot