Facebook group chat and video calling announced - links up with Skype

Facebook's new service announced by Zuckerberg
Facebook's new service announced by Zuckerberg

Facebook has announced two new services that brings more sharing to the social network - group chat and video calling,

After much rumour and speculation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage today at a Facebook event which was live-streamed on the site.

Speaking at the event, Zuckerberg said: "We've been busy building stuff for the past six months or so – today marks what we are calling launching season 2011."

The new things that are being launched is the ability to group chat ad hoc on the service and also the addition of video calling, with a little help from Skype.

There has also been a makeover of the chat window, so that it is easier to speak to multiple people.

Facebook video chat

Zuckerberg's speech was mainly about the power of sharing on the social network and how this is the biggest driver of traffic on the site.

"Social networking is at an inflection point right now. The narrative has always been about connecting people," said Zuckerberg.

"The amount of stuff that is shared today is twice what it was a year ago. That kind of exponential growth is profound. The thing that is growing faster than people on Facebook is the amount of sharing on Facebook."

"If you look at how sharing is growing, then you can plot this out in the future. So, if this is what people are sharing now then what apps do we have to create to encompass this in the next few years."

Facebook is hoping that group chat and video calling will allow this, but it is not doing this on its own.

Facebook's video chat is using Skype - something that was widely rumoured. This is the big difference between what Facebook is doing compared to other internet companies, according to Zuckerberg - which was more than a sly dig at Google who recently announced its own video chat, as part of Google+.

Facebook video

In his keynote, he said: "Working with Skype underlines our approach with how we are building this stuff. We want to leave these types of apps to those who are best in class in creating these things.

"This is a big difference from other internet companies who try and to millions of things on their own."

Zuckerberg confirmed that the video chat would be a plug-in that would have to be downloaded.

Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, said about the link-up between Facebook and Skype: "We think this makes a lot of business sense, we have a shared vision of what communication to mean and there is no finer platform to stick your technology on top."

If you want to try out video calling on Facebook, then go to www.facebook.com/videocalling now - the service is available from today and is fully integrated into Facebook Chat.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.