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Facebook has added a Skype video calling feature in the face of a direct challenge from Google in the social networking arena.
“We think this is awesome because we’re using the best technology that’s out there for doing video chat with the best social infrastructure that’s out there,” said Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The new Skype feature comes with improved group text chat, which allows for multi-person conversations and a camera icon which can be clicked on for instant one-on-one video calls with friends.
Google+, which the Internet search giant launched last week, includes a group video calling feature called “Hangouts” which has proved popular among early users.
Speaking to reporters at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California headquarters, Zuckerberg said he “wouldn’t rule out” group video calls at Facebook in the future but that the “vast majority” of video conversations are one-on-one.
Zuckerberg said plans to add Skype to Facebook began before Microsoft’s May acquistion of the internet voice and video service provider.
He portrayed online social networking as being at a point where its momentum is unstoppable and said that Facebook’s focus is now on fun or functional software applications which can be built on its platform.
“There is this clear arc where the world generally believes (social networking) is going to be everywhere,” Zuckerberg said.
As ranks of social network users grow, the number of updates, pictures, videos and other content shared is rocketing, according to Zuckerberg.
“We have 750 million users now and it is still growing quickly,” he said. “But the thing growing faster is the amount of sharing per user.”
“It is really gratifying to see this product on the leading social network out there,” said Skype chief executive Tony Bates. “There is no greater place to get to the Web than inside Facebook.
“This makes a lot of business sense as well,” Bates continued. “We want to be as ubiquitous as possible and great things will happen from there.”
Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran said the partnership with Skype “is another step for Facebook to solidify its position as a central platform for people to connect and communicate.
“It will also accelerate the use of a next generation form of communication in video chat by introducing it to hundreds of millions of people,” Corcoran said.
Skype is added to Facebook with easily installed Web browser “plug-in” software and no financial deal was struck between the companies, Zuckerberg said.
The Skype-Facebook alliance comes as Google mounts its own social networking challenge. Google and Facebook have waged a fierce battle over online advertising dollars and both companies are seeking to become the chief gateway to the Internet.
“I’m not going to say a lot about Google+” Zuckerberg said while fielding questions, “All of us have spent a little time on the service.” –AFP