It’s fitting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg streamed his brand’s latest “awesome” news: the integration of Skype-powered video chat into the new improved Facebook Chat, which has been souped up to also support multi-person group chats (though not yet in video for that piece — yet).
“A few months ago, we started working with Skype to bring video calling to Facebook,” said Phillip Su, an engineer on the video calling team, on Facebook’s blog post about the Video Calling announcement. “We built it right into chat, so all your conversations start from the same place.”
“Now it’s easier to find your friends and start a conversation,” he added.
The new feature lets Facebook’s 750 million users initiate a Skype-enabled video call (in 70 different languages) by selecting the ‘video call’ button at the top of any Facebook Chat window.
“This is possible because the social infrastructure exists. The system knows we’re connected and we have the pipe open between us so new applications can flow between us,” an upbeat Zuckerberg stated, citing broadband penetration growth as an additional factor, during the streamed press conference.
The new FB Chat design includes a sidebar for friends you message with most, and the sidebar adjusts with the size of your browser window, appearing automatically when the window is wide enough.
“We’re also launching multi-person chat, which is one of our most requested features. Now when your friends can’t figure out what movie to see, you can just add them to a chat and decide together. To include more friends in your conversation, simply select Add Friends to Chat.”
Zuckerber added that this is the first of many announcements of new apps to come in the next few months, including speculation about an iPad app, a photo-sharing app for iPhone, and further development of Project Spartan.
“We want to leave all the applications to independent entrepreneurs and companies that are going to be best in class at building these things. That’s a different strategy than other major Internet companies out there who try to do everything themselves,” added Zuckerberg in a thinly-veiled dig at Google which announced last week their home-made build of the ‘Hangouts’ video-calling feature from Google+.
Zuckerberg downplayed the 750 million user stat (while confirming it), instead expressing more excitement about the “four billion things” that Facebook users share daily. He also downplayed a question about revenue-sharing with Skype, stressing that this is a free app and value-add to FB users.
While Bell Canada launched video calling (for $5/month) last year, the global rollout out of free video-calling to Facebookers is a game-changer for the social network. Consider it the latest move in a Harry Potter proportioned chess-game, where each square gained has exponential repercussions for the social graph and other brands — in this case, including Skype, whose acquisition by Microsoft hasn’t closed yet.
Watch below: the launch commercial for FB Video Calling —