Skype Powers Video Chat Inside of Facebook


In addition to the Skype plug-in, Facebook also unveiled a group chat feature that allows multiple people to chat simultaneously via text and a redesigned layout that will include a buddy list on those monitors wide enough to support it.

Facebook's focus for the past several years has been on user growth and connecting people, but the company is moving to a new phase that will emphasize social applications, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a launch event held at the company's Palo Alto, Calif.-based headquarters.

"I actually think the driving narrative for the next five years is about what kind of cool stuff you're going to be able to build, and what kind of new social apps you're going to be able to build, now that you have this wiring in place," Zuckerberg said in the Webcast of the event.

Facebook is deciding what applications to build based on the behavior it's seeing on its Web site. After noticing that more than half of Facebook users are part of a Facebook Group, the company started looking for ways to leverage that metric, according to Peter Deng, product director at Facebook.

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"People love chatting with these groups," said Deng. "We realized we really wanted a good way for you to start these conversations more easily with ad hoc groups."

The group chat feature will allow the user to start a text-based chat with multiple Facebook friends. If the friends selected are online, they will be able to take part in the group chat, and if they are offline they will get a summary of the chat sent to them later.

Facebook also unveiled a partnership with Skype that has been in development for six months. Skype CEO Tony Bates said that teaming up with Facebook was a logical next step for his company.

"When we really thought about where we could take this [partnership], we had already sort of cracked the desktop. We'd been focused on mobile and we had started to make our way into the living room," Bates said. "And obviously the next place is to make it simple and easy and get to the Web."

The video chat plug-in uses Skype technology to power a video chat application within the Facebook framework. With two clicks, the Skype plug-in can be downloaded and launched inside of Facebook, allowing users to select their Facebook friends for video chatting. The feature is not yet available for mobile devices, but that is a longer term goal, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook's new features follow Google's unveiling last week of Google+, the search firm's new social networking service, which is currently available only to invited users. Without attacking Google directly, Zuckerberg took a clear jab at the company.

"We want to leave all of the different types of apps, or as much as possible, to independent entrepreneurs and companies who are going to be best in class at building those things," he said. "We just have this belief at Facebook that independent entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs that focus on one thing, will always do better than a company that's trying to do a million things."

Facebook promoted the partnership with Skype as evidence of this technique and suggested that more partnerships will be revealed soon. Zuckerberg said that several features fitting the theme of working with "best in class" partners are ready for release over the next six months.