SAN FRANCISCO: American users of Facebook Messenger can now use the app to order taxis via Uber, the online ride-hailing service, in a move that further extends Messenger beyond instant messaging.

It marks Facebook's first foray into the transport market and forms part of a wider plan to turn Facebook Messenger into a chat platform, such as China's WeChat, the Financial Times reported.

According to a blog post by Facebook product manager, Seth Rosenberg, users will be able to tap a car icon to request a ride and still remain within Messenger throughout the process. They will not need to access Uber separately.

"With this new feature, you can request a ride from a car service without ever needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation," Rosenberg said in his post.

"It's super easy and doesn't take you away from the plans that you're making with your friends or family. Whether you're meeting friends for lunch, on your way to a concert, or running late for work, Messenger and our partners can get you to your destination faster," he added.

For a limited period, users can claim a free ride, worth up to $20, the first time they use the service, which is being rolled out across the US before Christmas and may go global in 2016.

The partnership gives Uber access to the estimated 700 million people who use Messenger each month while a major advantage for Facebook is that the new service, if successful, may broaden the app's appeal.

It could also help to differentiate Messenger from other chat apps, including Facebook's own WhatsApp, which it acquired last year for $19bn.

Data sourced from Facebook, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff