Facebook looks to extend its lead and be more of a platform

Facebook has been talking up an "awesome" announcement up until Wednesday, and here it is: Facebook is boosting its Chat platform with the addition of group chat, video calling (with Skype) and a new layout.

Facebook has been talking up an "awesome" announcement up until Wednesday, and here it is: Facebook is boosting its Chat platform with the addition of group chat, video calling (with Skype) and a new layout.

Before you get upset about Facebook churning out yet another side-wide revamp, rest assured that the new layout is specific to the Chat feature.

Speaking at a media event at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., CEO Mark Zuckerberg remarked that Wednesday's announcements are the beginning of the social network's "launching season 2011":

We're cranking out a bunch of projects that have taken the past six months. Over the next coming weeks and months we have a lot of fun stuff to roll out.

Basically, Facebook is looking to extend its brand and platform of social media apps with more partners rather than doing everything themselves. Zuckerberg said that apps developed in the next few years for connecting people will be dramatically different as four billion things (and counting) are shared everyday on Facebook:

We're not everywhere yet. Facebook, other social softwares aren't everywhere. There is this clear arc that the world generally believes that it is going to be everywhere...Whether it's us or someone else doing it...Someone is going to be building tools for that to happen.

Thus, here are the details of Facebook's three new/revamped private communication channels, all of which will be rolling out today:

  • Group Chat: Dubbed as a "powerful organizing function," the idea behind the group chat feature is to bring a community feel to Groups as "more than half" of Facebook users are using this feature. It also allows multiple participants to go through and curate how the group operates rather than just one person doing the organizing.
  • New Chat Design: The new design with a simplified Chat tab takes browser sizes into account, and it includes friends who are available as well as not available to chat.
  • Video Calling: In partnership with Skype (as rumored for quite some time), Zuckerberg noted that it uses the "best technology that's out there for video chat with the best social infrastructure out there." If one user has video chat enabled but the other does, the user without the software already installed will be able download the plug-in within "20 seconds."

Zuckerberg and company made a few sly hits at its rivals before even getting to press questions. In regards to video chat, Zuckerberg said that Skype was brought on to "leave responsibilities to the best in class," and that Facebook's plan is "better than strategies of other companies that try to do everything themselves."

Facebook debuts video calling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces a new Skype-powered video-calling feature that will begin rolling out to Facebook users immediately. Video connections will be nearly instant, with no downloads or technical expertise required, Zuckerberg says.Facebook Video Calling vs. Google+ HangoutsFacebook tries to box in Google+ as so five years agoFacebook announces video calling, powered by Skype

Furthermore, in reference to the chat apps in general, Zuckerberg argued that "it's surprising to us how hard it is to find people online" and that "there's no really good way to see who's online."

By concluding that Facebook will "always do better than a company trying to do a million things," it's not that difficult to figure out which other tech giant that Zuckerberg might be thinking about.

Finally, in a minor note without any pomp and circumstance, Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook now retains at least 750 million active users, and that the "size of the network is growing at a very quick rate."

To watch a copy of the live webcast, check out coverage on ZDNet's Friending Facebook blog.