Facebook gets Skype video-chat tool

Users of the social networking site can now make video calls with one another, although the service is more limited than that offered through rival network Google+
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Facebook has integrated Skype into its social network, a week after Google launched Google+ with videoconferencing functionality.

Facebook Skype page

Facebook has teamed up with Skype to introduce a new video-calling feature to the site. Screenshot: Jon Yeomans

Describing the move as "Skype's first big step on the web", Facebook and Skype said the internet telephony company has provided an optimised version of its software for the tie-in. The new video tool was introduced alongside other enhancements to Facebook chat, including group text chat, at a launch event in California on Wednesday.

The Skype-powered video-calling tool will be automatically rolled out to all Facebook users over the next few weeks, the companies said. However, any member can add it now by visiting a dedicated page.

"For those of us who have been working on this, it's particularly exciting to bring video calling to over 750 million people," Facebook engineer Philip Su said in a post on the social network. Facebook revealed at the launch event that it now has that number of users, while Skype currently has around 150 million users.

"We're making this available in over 70 different languages, so friends can stay in touch all over the world," Su added.

Microsoft, which also has a small stake in Facebook, said in May that it has agreed to buy Skype. According to Su, Skype and Facebook have been working on video chat for the last "few months".

Unlike the video-calling feature in Google+, Facebook's service cannot support a conversation between more than two people. It also requires the download of a browser add-on.

According to Cisco, the social networks' introduction of video calling shows how broadband speeds are improving worldwide. However, the telecoms equipment maker said such services will also add to the load faced by ISPs.

"Online video is still very much in its infancy," Ian Foddering, Cisco's UK & Ireland chief technology officer, said in a statement. "As ever more consumers get faster and faster broadband speeds, the demand for high-quality video services is going to increase exponentially. In fact, our research indicates that by 2012, internet video will make up more than half of all consumer internet traffic."

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