Mobile video chat code seen in new Facebook Messenger app

Facebook won't say if, or when, the chat feature might launch

Shortly after Facebook launched a Messenger app for smartphones on Tuesday, early users found partial code for a video chat component tucked away inside it.

Facebook Messenger was announced in a Facebook blog as a "faster way to message on mobile" for iPhone and Android smartphones.

Shortly after the app appeared, 9-to-5 Mac reported on the video component, noting it was "very rudimentary" code.

A Facebook spokeswoman would not add much information about when or even whether the mobile video chat capability might be launched, saying in an email: "We're always working on new features, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."

Video chat from smartphones was considered hot when Apple launched the capability in iPhone 4 last year, allowing connections when each iPhone 4 user was on Wi-Fi.

More recently, Google announced the Google+ social network with Hangouts, a group video chat experience that has received great reviews but doesn't yet work for smartphones, though other parts of Google+ work with Android and iOS.

A Google spokesman confirmed via email that Google+ doesn't currently support Hangouts from mobile devices.

Shortly after Google+ appeared in June, Facebook announced a Video Calling feature for its social network powered by Skype that works from several desktop browsers.

Despite intense interest in smartphone video chat, the experience can be disappointing. Chat quality usually depends on the speed of the wireless network connection, whether it is Wi-Fi or cellular, analysts have noted. A faster cellular network, perhaps 4G, is seen by many as one way to ensure better video chats.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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