July 8, 2011

Facebook adds video calls, group chat

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg watches the demonstration of video chat during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto on Wednesday.
APFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg watches the demonstration of video chat during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto on Wednesday.

NEW YORK - Quick on the heels of Google's launch of its latest social-networking venture, Facebook said Wednesday that its 750 million users will now be able to make video calls on the site.

The feature will be powered by the online phone service Skype. Facebook also redesigned its chat feature so that the people a user messages the most often show up first.

To make video calls, Facebook users with webcam-equipped computers have to select the friend they want to chat with. In the window that pops up, clicking on a video icon brings up the video-chat feature. There is no option to video-chat with more than one person.

Watch live streaming video from facebookannouncements at livestream.com

That feature is available on Google Plus, a social-networking service that Google began testing last week with a small number of invited users.

Facebook is also adding a group-chat option. This works much the same way as the group chat on Google Plus. Once you start chatting with one friend, you can click an icon to add more people to the conversation.

Facebook's new features come after a relatively quiet period for the world's largest online social network. Mark Zuckerberg, 27, said the company is embarking on "launching season 2011." Users can expect "a lot of stuff coming out" for Facebook in the next couple of weeks and months, he said at an event at the company's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

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 the gap is 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, Facebook users share 4 billion items, such as photos, status updates and links, every day.

Without mentioning Google by name, Zuckerberg said, "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.

by Barbara Ortutay Associated Press Jul. 7, 2011 12:00 AM

Facebook adds video calls, group chat

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