Facebook launches Skype-powered video calls

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team today revealed that video calls and an updated chat are coming to their social network.  The new feature is provided by Skype, the world's largest VoIP service recently bought by Microsoft, and makes video calls much easier for Facebook's 750 million users.  The question is: Will they use it?

The idea behind the innovation is to make communications as easy as possible between users, and to that purpose the Facebook team felt a redesign of the cumbersome chat and adding video was the best move.

In the webcast announcement through, Skype CEO Tony Bates joined Zuckerberg to talk about the two companies working together to bring seamless usage of the video calls. Facebook users will now be able to easily start video calls between each other even if they haven’t installed the software before the person calls them.

Facebook will then prompt the user to download and install a small Java file but after that, you just need to open a chat box with your Facebook friend and click on the video camera icon to start a call. Call notifications will also be unobtrusive so it won’t take you out of any application you may be in, and it will also not activate your webcam until you hit the button to accept the call, so no need to worry about sudden intrusions into your personal space.

The service is free for now, but there are talks that Skype will eventually charge Facebook credits to make certain types of calls. Also at this time there is no mobile integration for the new product.

The Facebook-Skype partnership has been discussed in the Internet for a long time. It was even pre-empted months ago when Skype released a new version of its software that will integrate Facebook into Skype's interface, including a dedicated Facebook tab where users can utilize many of the same features in Facebook, without ever having to log into the Facebook interface.

However, according to a media statement from Neil Stephen, Skype Product Manager, Skype-to-Facebook calls was not yet ready for use, but he said it will come soon.

Not as exciting as the video calls, Facebook group chat is getting a makeover to be more user-friendly. A new button will allow the user to easily add people to an existing chat window so that you can effortlessly pull friends in when they come online.

The timing of Zuckerberg's announcement is popularly seen as a response to Google+, Google's latest social network announced the previous week. After all, one of Google+'s most talked-about features was a group video conferencing feature dubbed as Hangout.

Both Facebook video calls and group chat launches today and should be available for use this afternoon.

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