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Using Facebook video chat is very straight-forward and intuitive. Having opened your Chat contacts and seen who is available to chat, double click on that person’s name and at the top of the pop-up window you’ll see a new video camera icon. Clicking on this will send an invitation to the person to take part in a video chat. The person will receive a pop-up notification (similar to the one you get in Skype) along with a ringing sound, if they already have the plug-in installed. If the plug-in is not installed on your friend’s computer they will be invited to do so, and you’ll be informed as to what is happening.
Once all this is done, video calling works as you would expect it to. While some have complained about the quality of the video calling, we found it more than adequate while testing it for the past few days, with both sound and picture being in sync for the vast majority of time we were using the service.
Once a call is connected, a video window appears over your Facebook page with an image of the person you are calling taking up most of the screen and a small picture of you in the top right-hand corner. The video window can be dragged to a suitable place on your screen and can also be re-sized. To end a call all you need to do is hover the mouse over the window and a option to end the call will appear.
If you don’t have a webcam as part of your system, fret not as you can still get in on the video-calling excitement but the person you are calling will only be able to hear your voice while you will still be able to see them. There are very few tweaks you can make to the video-calling feature in Facebook as it has been designed with simplicity in mind and so it can be used by almost anyone. With Skype powering the service, it didn’t surprise us that the service worked pretty well. It has had years of practice at getting video-calling right and has managed to bring that expertise to Facebook.
While we found the system very easy to use, there are obviously some drawbacks. Currently the system is limited to one-on-one calls and while Zuckerberg didn’t rule out adding group calling in the future, this limitation will be a turn-off for many. With Google offering group calling with its Hangout feature, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook updating its service very soon.
Overall the system works (for most computer configurations) and offers an ease of use that regular Facebook users will find very compelling. Despite the system working, it still seems as if the announcement was a little rushed and could be a reaction to the announcement of Google. If this is the case, video calling on Facebook should get better in the coming months and if Facebook can build on its initial success, it could have a very compelling feature on its hands.