Facebook unveils its next-generation messaging, video calling

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Facebook has just unveiled a new video chat service. The service, powered by Skype, is built into the messaging service on Facebook’s website.

Facebook also unveiled a new design for its messaging application and is giving users a more streamlined way to add users to a group chat.

Facebook might have already lost the first-mover advantage to Google. The search giant recently unveiled Google+, its social networking app that has a feature called Hangouts. Hangouts allows Google+ members to participate in free 10-person video chats. VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar called the Google+ Hangouts feature the “killer feature” of Google+.

Skype, on the other hand, charges extra for group video conferencing. Skype also doesn’t have an easy way for third parties to implement its video chat service.

Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site and has 750 million monthly users. It recently finished a fundraising round worth $1.5 billion that valued the company at $50 billion. GSV Capital also recently invested in the company at a valuation of $70 billion.

Here’s a breakdown of the highlights from Facebook’s product announcement.

10:15 a.m. — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage. “Today marks the beginning of what we’ll call launching season 2011.”

10:17 a.m. — “Now the world generally believes that (social networking) will be everywhere. People genuinely believe that people want to stay connected, and somebody has to be building tools for that to happen,” Zuckerberg says.

10:18 a.m. — “The narrative isn’t going to be about wiring up the world, it’s going to be about the cool stuff you can build and what social apps you are going to build now that you have this wiring in place.”

10:21 a.m. — “The amount of stuff people share today is about twice the amount of stuff people shared a year ago. If you plot that forward, it will be about twice as much as they are sharing today a year from now and twice as much as that a year from that.”

10:25 a.m. — Zuckerberg asks, “What kind of apps need to exist in five years for this trend to continue?” Facebook has added new features that increase the amount of content shared, like News Feed and Like buttons. Facebook is making lighter-weight ways to share content and segment communities.

10:27 a.m. — “Today we’re gonna talk about some private communication channels.”

10:27 a.m. — Facebook is unveiling Group Chat, video calling and a new design for messaging.

10:28 a.m. — “There were millions of chat messages coming through a day, but one thing that surprised us was how hard it was to find people who were online.”

10:29 a.m. — Video calling works with Skype, Zuckerberg says. Facebook users can go to a second user’s profile and call them. If the second user hasn’t installed the plug-in for video conferencing, a pop-up will show up on the second user’s main screen. The second user can then install the plug-in for video calling in around 20 seconds, Zuckerberg says.

10:33 a.m. — Group chat is now ad-hoc. With one click, a user can add friends to a chat if they are online. If an added user isn’t online, they will receive a digest of all the messages when they return online.

10:34 a.m. — The new messaging design detects how large your web browser is and adds a buddy list if the browser window is large enough.

10:35 a.m. — Facebook is now giving a demo of video calling. The feature is coming out today. Users can click a call button on a chat tab or on another person’s profile and begin a video call.

10:38 a.m. — “Remember what we did here — an easy, one-button click to call a friend that is on a social network that already has all your friends.”

10:39 a.m. — The download for the video-conferencing plug-in should be done in around 30 seconds, the company said.

10:41 a.m. — Skype CEO Tony Bates is taking the stage. “It’s really gratifying to see the product and have this available on the leading social networking platform out there.”

10:41 a.m. — Skype is averaging around 300 million minutes of video every month and around 50 percent of the company’s calls are video calls, Bates said.

10:42 a.m. — “The technology itself, it’s tough — we’re talking billions of people. We’ve worked very hard with all the lessons learned. When we started working on this about 6 months ago thinking about how we’d do the deep integration, it became clear we could establish a long-term clear relationship that has long-term benefits for both of us.”

10:43 a.m. — “We get huge reach, talking about having paid Skype products available in the web format, and we’re really excited about it,” Bates said.

10:44 a.m. — Zuckerberg is back on stage. “More than half of our users are now using groups, and now most of our users with big enough browsers will have a better chat experience.”

10:45 a.m. — Zuckerberg and Bates are now taking questions about the announcement.

10:45 a.m. — “Today we are doing (video calling) for one-on-one,” Zuckerberg says in response to a question about group video chats and Google Hangouts. “I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I wouldn’t undersell the importance of what we have today. The vast majority of video chat is one-on-one chat. I just think this is super awesome.”

10:46 a.m. — “I’m not gonna say a lot about Google+, we’ve all only spent a little bit of time on it,” Zuckerberg says. “You’re gonna see a lot of companies that haven’t looked at social networking in their apps, not just companies like Google.”

10:47 a.m. — “All these different companies are going to try to build on top of a social structure. Some of the folks are going to try to build their own, and I view this as validation that this is how the next five years are going to play out,” Zuckerberg says. “If we don’t do it, then someone else will do it.”

10:54 a.m. — “We’re in the process of figuring out what to do next. We took a turn for this iteration to do video calling in Facebook, and we’re laying out the roadmap for the next things we’re gonna do.”

10:58 a.m. — “The majority of users don’t want to configure this stuff themselves. A huge amount of our users will never go out of their way to add a friend. That’s one of the valuable things about the network doing the things for you. About half of the user base now uses groups, so that’s the approach we think is a lot more promising.”


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