PALO ALTO (CBS/AP) — Quick on the heels of Google’s launch of its latest social-networking venture, Facebook said Wednesday that its 750 million users will now be able to make video calls on the site.
The feature will be powered by the Internet phone service Skype. Facebook also redesigned its chat feature, so that the people a user messages the most often show up first.
To make video calls, Facebook users with webcam-equipped computers have to select the friends they want to chat with. In the chat window that pops up, clicking on a small blue video icon brings up the video chat feature. Currently there is no option to video chat more than one person. That feature is available on Google Plus, a social service that Google began testing last week with a small number of invited users.
Facebook is also adding a group chat option. This works much the same way as the group chat on Google Plus. Once you are chatting with one friend, you can click an icon to add more people to the conversation.
KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid said while the feature is new for many Facebook users, the technology has been around for awhile.
“Video has been around for awhile and Skype has been around for awhile. But what is cool about this is that you can now do it on Facebook,” he said. “It’s a convenience and what’s good about it is there are 750 million users on Facebook. And now with one or two clicks, you can initiate a video conversation.”
KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid:
Facebook’s new products come after a relatively quiet period for the world’s largest online social network. Zuckerberg, 26, said the company is embarking on “launching season 2011.” Users can expect “a lot of stuff coming out” from Facebook in the next couple of weeks and months, he said at an event at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters.
Facebook updated its user count — to 750 million users worldwide — for the first time since last summer, when it reached half a billion people. Zuckerberg said that’s because “we don’t think it’s a metric to watch anymore.”
Rather, Facebook is paying more attention to how much its users are sharing with one another. That number is growing at a much faster rate than its monthly user base. Currently, people share 4 billion items, such as photos, status updates and links, every day using Facebook.
Without mentioning Google by name, Zuckerberg said that “independent entrepreneurs and companies focused on one particular thing will always do better than companies that try to do everything.”
For Facebook, that one thing has been creating an online social infrastructure that other companies, such as Skype, can then add their own products to.
Skype has agreed to be bought by Microsoft Corp. for $8.5 billion in a deal expected to close by the end of the year. Microsoft owns a small stake in Facebook.
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