Facebook launches video calls, group chat features

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
July 6, 2011 5:51:18 PM PDT
Facebook launched new ways to keep in touch with friends Wednesday. The key feature is video chat, but the Palo Alto social network giant has more up its sleeve.

Facebook wants to be users' one-stop place to share everything with friends. Now users can connect to for video chats.

"You just start the video and there it goes," Facebook product manager Johnny Chen said.

Facebook is partnering with Skype to provide video chats. Skype's expecting this new feature will triple or quadruple the amount of video traffic it already handles. Current volume is 300 million minutes per month.

Skype was already working on a Facebook video chat feature.

"We were building out our own plug-in for Facebook ourselves, they saw it and like it and said, 'Hey, we'd like to take that technology and use it ourselves to offer it directly to Facebook users,'" Skype Product marketing Vice President Neil Stevens said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the next five years will see a huge spurt in sharing "stuff," as he calls it, on social networks.

Four billion things are posted on a daily basis and the numbers are growing at an exponential rate.

"If you plot that forward it will be statistically, from what we've seen so far, about twice as much as they're sharing today a year from now," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook also unveiled a new sidebar that displays users' most frequently contacted friends and a group chat feature.

The new video chat may pose some risk for Facebook's partner, Skype.

"For Skype the problems could be that they might lose, erode their user base; people might find it more convenient to do Skype within Facebook, rather than Skype outside of Facebook," Gartner research analyst Ray Valdes said.

For now, Facebook's video chat is strictly one-on-one. Group chat might be added later.

Zuckerberg called Wednesday's event the start of this year's launch season, a not very subtle hint that the social network has more new features in development.


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