Facebook announces video calling with Skype, but is that enough to overshadow Google Plus launch?

July 7, 2011

Facebook announced that its social network would now be able to host video calling between users. The new feature will be powered by Skype. As Hayley Tsukayama reported :

Facebook promised us something “awesome” today and, as expected, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced video calling in partnership through Skype.

The feature begins rolling out today, and will be available to all users within a few weeks. Those who are eager to try it now can do so by signing up at Facebook.

At the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Zuckerberg said the best part about the video calling feature is that users don’t have to set up a Skype account. It’s built right into the system with a small download that engineer Philip Su said should take about thirty seconds. Skype CEO Tony Bates said that paid Skype services may eventually be offered through the network.

With the video calling feature, Facebook is more equipped to handle mounting competition from Google and its Google + network, which offers video chat as a main feature. But Google + allows for up to 10 people to video chat at once, whereas Facebook’s service is currently limited to one-on-one calls.

Zuckerberg said that he wouldn’t “undersell” one-to-one chat, when asked about Google +, adding that the launch of the network is “validation” of his theory that the next five years in tech are about building apps for the social world.

In addition to video calls, Facebook will roll out a sidebar that showcases the people that users message most and allows users to incorporate group chat.

Facebook also updated their total user count, which now stands at 750 million users worldwide. Mark Zuckerberg explained the lack of updates since last summer’s 500 million announcement as a shift in focus for the company. As AP explained:

Facebook updated its user count — to 750 million users worldwide — for the first time since last summer, when it reached half a billion people. Zuckerberg said that’s because “we don’t think it’s a metric to watch anymore.”

Rather, Facebook is paying more attention to how much its users are sharing with one another. That number is growing at a much faster rate than its monthly user base. Currently, people share 4 billion items, such as photos, status updates and links, every day using Facebook.

Without mentioning Google by name, Zuckerberg said that “independent entrepreneurs and companies focused on one particular thing will always do better than companies that try to do everything.”

For Facebook, that one thing has been creating an online social infrastructure that other companies, such as Skype, can then add their own products to.

Skype has agreed to be bought by Microsoft Corp. for $8.5 billion in a deal expected to close by the end of the year. Microsoft owns a small stake in Facebook.

Elsewhere in the Facebook universe, iconic board game turned computer franchise Civilization will bring their game into the social network as ‘Civ World’. As AP reported:

Long before “FarmVille” there was “Civilization,” the iconic computer game in which players build a civilized world over thousands of years. Now, the game’s designer, Sid Meier, is bringing his creation to Facebook.

Available Wednesday, “Civ World” is a lighter, social version of the classic PC strategy game, which launched in 1991 and migrated to video game consoles in 2008. In the Facebook adaptation, players cooperate to build cities and engage in diplomacy, scientific discovery and economics as they advance civilization throughout the ages.

“It’s built along similar lines, with a beginning, middle and end,” Meier said. “But you create a story together with a lot of other people. It’s more of a group experience.”

Like “FarmVille” and other Facebook games, “Civ World” is free to play. It makes money by selling virtual items, such as armies and weapons that can help players advance. But to make the game enjoyable for players who don’t spend anything, “Civ World” limits how much money players can spend each day.

More from The Washington Post

Faster Forward: What will Facebook’s ‘awesome’ news be?

TechCrunch: Facebook video chat v. Google Hangout: It’s no contest

Faster Forward: Apple iPad Facebook app on the way?

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