Apr 27, 2015 · 1 minute

Facebook will now allow consumers to make high definition video calls with the mobile applications for Messenger, the dedicated communications service that has become a social platform unto itself around the world.

The feature is free to use and available right now in the Messenger applications for iOS and Android devices. A Windows Phone release hasn't been revealed, and it's not clear if the feature will eventually come to Messenger's desktop site.

Video calls are the latest in Facebook's efforts to establish Messenger as the service that will allow the company to remain relevant, even as consumers favor instant messaging platforms over social networking websites.

First it expanded Messenger from a simple communications service to a legitimate platform on which other developers can build. At the same time, it announced that businesses can use the service to message with their customers.

Then Facebook allowed Messenger users to send money to each other, and later it brought the service out of its original website and gave it a new home on the web so people could use Messenger without feeling like they're using Facebook.

Eventually the company could bring its new away messages to Messenger -- making the service more like AIM and its counterparts of yore -- so people wouldn't even have to use Facebook to share status updates with their friends.

It's hard to tell why Messenger has garnered so much focus. Maybe it's because it's suited to mobile devices. Perhaps this is all just cyclical and a few years from now we'll be talking about how Facebook is like a more public Messenger app. Or maybe it's because Messenger doesn't have the baggage of Facebook proper.

No matter what, it's clear Messenger is poised to become the next Facebook. Maybe that's why it's now called "Messenger" instead of "Facebook Messenger" -- Facebook dropped its "The," and now Messenger has dropped its Facebook.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]