Amid threat from Google+, Facebook launches video chat feature

1:38:00 AM

Amid threat from Google+, Facebook launches video chat feature
07/07/2011 | 08:39 AM
Amid a threat from Google's upcoming Google+ social networking site, social networking juggernaut Facebook raised the stakes, introducing a video chat feature for its 750 million-plus users.

Facebook said it has started rolling out the feature – a collaboration with video chat giant Skype – where users can click on the "video call" button at the top of their chat windows.

"(A) few months ago, we started working with Skype to bring video calling to Facebook. We built it right into chat, so all your conversations start from the same place. To call your friend, just click the video call button at the top of your chat window," video calling team engineer Philip Su said in a blog post.

"For those of us who have been working on this, it's particularly exciting to bring video calling to over 750 million people. We're making this available in over 70 different languages, so friends can stay in touch all over the world," he added.

He said this comes with a new chat design that includes a sidebar listing the people a Facebook user messages most.

This would make it easier to find friends and start a conversation, he said.

"The sidebar adjusts with the size of your browser window, and it automatically appears when the window is wide enough," he added.

Su said Facebook is also launching multi-person chat, which he said is one of Facebook's 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," he said.

Su said the history of your conversation is available in the messages section.

"Video chat has been around for years now, but it's still not an everyday activity for most people. Sometimes it's too difficult to set up, or the friends you want to talk to are on different services," he noted.

Su said video calling will be available to everyone over the next few weeks.

He offered a link for those who want to get the feature now.

Last weekend, tech site TechCrunch had reported Facebook was planning to offer a feature with video chat inside the browser.

Facebook and Skype have already been working together, including integration of Facebook features into the Skype service.

Skype, which is to be acquired by desktop software giant Microsoft for $8.5 billion, presently has just 170 million.

"And it will certainly help Facebook become even stickier for users as they start to have voice and video chat as an option to communicate," TechCrunch said.

On the other hand, TechCrunch said such an arrangement may brings Facebook even closer to Microsoft, which is a Facebook shareholder.

Answer to Google's 'hangouts'

A separate article on PC Magazine said the video calls may be Facebook's answer to the Hangouts function in Google's social network Google+.

It noted Facebook partnered with Skype on Skype 5.0 in 2010, which allowed users to sign in with Facebook and then connect to their friends using the Skype application.

The PC Mag article added that in March, Facebook and Skype were said to be mulling a partnership that would tie Skype directly into the Facebook environment. — Source: LBG, GMA news

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