Bonfire, a group calling mobile app with next-generation features, is quietly rolling out on the iTunes App Store adn Google Play. This app is being developed by Facebook, and it may signal the direction that instant messaging and personal communications will be handled by the social media giant in the near future.
The app is currently being tested primarily in Denmark, a country known for its excellent wireless broadband infrastructure. Bonfire can accommodate up to nine callers in a single video chat session; early user reviews indicate that the app works flawlessly and without any noticeable lag. Facebook is borrowing a page from the Snapchat strategy book by adding quite a few stickers, filters and augmented reality features to Bonfire.
When users first install Bonfire to their smartphones or tablets, they only have access to about a dozen stickers and filters; additional features can be downloaded as desired. Naturally, a Facebook account is required to use Bonfire; video calls can be started with simple invitations that are as intuitive as those found in Snapchat; one of the best features of Bonfire is the ability to instantly share and post conversation snapshots to Instagram or Facebook.
Although Bonfire will eventually become an integral component of the mobile Facebook experience, the current version and user interface mostly resembles Instagram. The target audience is clearly younger users since they are the most likely to engage in group video calling these days. It is readily apparent that Facebook wants to offer younger users as many features as Snapchat does; to this effect, the augmented reality extras and the stickers are mostly fun features that younger users are more likely to enjoy.
An interesting aspect of the current Bonfire test by Facebook is that it somewhat resembles what Google has been doing over the last few years: testing different messaging apps and retiring those that do not perform as strongly as expected. Google currently has four major messaging apps, and they are not entirely compatible with each other.