First, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company was planning to "launch something awesome" this week. Next, Facebook e-mailed journalists (including myself) with an invitation to a Facebook Event on Wednesday July 6, 2011 (today).
Now, it's time to tune in and see what Facebook is going to reveal. Here's the only official information the company is providing:
Please join us for a product announcement LIVE from Facebook HQ. Tune in to Facebook Live (http://on.fb.me/facebookhq) on Wednesday, July 6 at 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST / 6 PM GMT.
That link simply redirects you to facebook.com/FacebookLive, so keep your browser pointed there. I've also embedded the video above for your convenience (even if you have Facebook blocked at work, you should be able to watch it).
There are multiple rumors regarding what Facebook will launch today, including an official Facebook iPad app, a Facebook photo sharing app for the iPhone, a music streaming service, a tie-in with Netflix, or maybe even something that we haven't heard about yet.
The most likely one so far is the announcement of Skype video integration on Facebook. The new product is expected to include a desktop component, but it's not clear if you will need the Skype desktop client or additional software even if you already have Skype. Either way, it will reportedly be an in-browser experience.
Facebook and Skype first talked about a potential partnership in September 2010, but they could not reach an agreement. When Skype 5.0 was released in October 2010, the new version offered voice calling between Facebook friends, but it did not include a video chatting feature. The integration was a one-way road: only Skype added some Facebook features to its client.
Following rumors that Google, Facebook, and Microsoft were all interested in the Skype, the software giant swooped in. Two months ago, Microsoft announced that it was acquiring Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. The deal was approved by the boards of directors of both companies, and is Microsoft's largest acquisition to date.
While Facebook failed to buy Skype, the company was still likely very pleased that Microsoft got the Luxembourg-based company rather than Google. Microsoft is a Facebook investor since October 2007 and the two collaborate quite a bit. One of the biggest reasons for this is simple: the software giant and the social giant realize they need to work together to compete with the search giant.
Facebook reportedly has 750 million users, and since Skype only has 170 million users, it's understandable what Skype gains from this integration. On the other hand, data has shown that Facebook users want voice (and video) chat, so it's clear that the social network will benefit as well.