In an announcement which surprised no one (not even Mark Zuckerberg’s elderly neighbour apparently), Facebook announced video calling powered by Skype for all users.
The service will be rolled out immediately and to get started just visit the Facebook video calling page and a plugin will be downloaded (within 30 seconds apparently). Demos of the service at the press conference in Seattle today made it seem very slick indeed. Once you click on a friend’s profile and click call, a box (and ringing sound) will appear on your friend’s profile allowing them to accept or decline. We tested the system for ourselves and we were seriously impressed with the ease and speed of set-up - and using the service was no great pain either.
Currently only one-on-one calling will be possible but Zuckerberg and Skype CEO, Tony Bates, didn’t rule anything out in the future. Zuckerberg spoke about Facebook now being at a tipping point, where all the social network infrastructure was in place and how the next five years will be dominated by social apps - such as Skype video calling.
As well as video calling, Facebook announced Group Chat which allows you to create ad hoc groups to allow you organize nights out or trips to the cinema. Online friends will see the chat immediately and those offline will get a summary of the chat later on. Apparently since launching less than 12 months ago, 50 percent of Facebook users actively use Groups with an average of seven people per group.
A new design for Facebook chat was also unveiled making it even more straightforward for users to chat with friends. With Google mimicking many of Facebook's features, the social network will have to continue to innovate to keep one step ahead of the competition.
All the new features are rolling out today so let us know in the comments what you think of video calling, Group chat and the new design.