Archive for July 7th, 2011

Article from SF Gate.

“Facebook began bringing video calling to the masses Wednesday, partnering with Skype to provide the free chat service to its 750 million members.

Video calling comes to the world’s largest social network as part of a larger overhaul of Facebook’s chat features. The updated service will allow users to create group text chats by adding multiple friends into the same window. The chat window also becomes more prominent, taking up the right side of the screen by default.

Speaking at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the updates marked a shift for the company away from simply adding users at an ever-faster clip.

“The driving narrative for the next five years or so is not going to be about wiring up the world, because a lot of the interesting stuff has actually been done,” he said. “It’s about what kind of cool stuff you’re going to be able to build, and what kind of new social apps you’re going to be able to build, now that you have this wiring in place.”

Zuckerberg said the shift was prompted in part by a surging demand for sharing information. Facebook users share twice as much today as they did a year ago, as measured by photos posted, comments written and other items.

Facebook’s announcements come on the heels of Google rolling out a new social offering, Google+, that duplicates many of the sharing functions found in Facebook. Google+ also includes a feature called Hangouts that enables group video chatting.

For starters, the Facebook-Skype partnership will only allow one-on-one chatting. Group video chat could be forthcoming, executives said, although on Skype’s stand-alone product, that feature costs money to use.

Zuckerberg said Google’s new product validated Facebook’s own works, and that in the future social features would become an expected part of every application.

The question is which Internet company will prove better at retaining users. Google has more unique users, but they spend less time on the site than Facebook users do. The more time users spend on a site, the more valuable it is to advertisers.

Susan Etlinger, an analyst at Altimeter Group, said Facebook’s large user base would make its video-calling feature instantly competitive with Google’s and other video chat services.

She said the company’s plans to build new services on top of their platform signaled a newfound maturity for the 7-year-old company.

“What I heard Mark say today is that Facebook is starting to focus more on the social aspect of social networking, whereas in the past they focused more on the networking and engineering,” she said. “It’s a really healthy shift.”

Executives at Skype, which was acquired by Microsoft in May for $8.5 billion, said the acquisition would introduce them to an enormous new audience and sell add-on services to them.

“We think this makes a lot of business sense as well,” Skype CEO Tony Bates said. “We get huge reach. In the future we’re talking about potentially also having Skype paid products available within the Web format that we saw here today, so we’re very excited about it.”

Every month, Skype’s users spend 300 million minutes making video calls, Bates said. At peak times, video represents more than half the company’s traffic. (Skype has 170 million regular users.)

Video chat should be available to everyone within a week, Skype product manager Mike Barnes said. Making calls requires users to download a small Java application through the browser.

At first, users will not be able to link their Facebook and Skype accounts. But that integration is in the works, Barnes said. Users who have microphones but not webcams will be able to make voice-only calls on Facebook, he said.”

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