Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, announced the introduction of features like video calling, group chat and a redesigned chat on Wednesday during a press conference at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters. Also at the event Facebook updated its user count to 750 million users worldwide.
The group chat feature will let users talk with several other Facebook friends at the same time using only text. The video calling feature has been developed with Skype, the world’s largest Internet phone company. Users have to complete a quick, one-time set up before making video calls. Callers who have webcams and microphone setup will be able to see and hear the recipient, and vice-versa. The one-on-one video calling feature is built right into chat.
Group video calling is not yet supported. “Today, we’re doing one-on-one ,” Zuckerberg said. When asked about the possibility of group video chat and calling he said “I wouldn’t rule anything out…But I also wouldn’t undersell the importance of what we have today. The vast majority of video chat is one-on-one chat. I just think that this is super-awesome.”
The design changes in the chat are aimed to make the feature more user- friendly. “The new chat design includes a sidebar that lists the people you message most. Now it’s easier to find your friends and start a conversation. The sidebar adjusts with the size of your browser window, and it automatically appears when the window is wide enough”, wrote Philip Su, an engineer on the video calling team, on Facebook’s official blog.
The agreement with Skype deepens Facebook’s connection with Microsoft Corp, which is in the process of buying Skype. The deal with Facebook is only the start of a potentially lucrative partnership, said Tony Bates, Skype’s Chief Executive, at the Palo Alto event. “For us, this makes a lot of business sense,” Bates said “We get huge reach. In the future, we’re talking about potentially also having Skype paid products available within the Web format we saw here today.”
Wednesday’s announcement from Facebook comes almost a week after Google launched its latest social network, Google+.