Facebook is rolling out a redesigned Chat service, adding functions to let Facebook users video-chat with friends. Group Chat has also been introduced for users who want to talk to multiple friends at once.
In a streaming live announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered details of a redesigned Facebook Chat, in order to create more layers on the company's "social infrastructure," as Zuckerberg described it.
"Given that we’re one of the biggest chat networks in world, these will be meaningful tools for that part of communication," Zuckerberg added.
As rumoured, Facebook is adding video to its Chat service. Video calling, powered by Skype, is now built into Chat, allowing any Facebook user to video-chat with another user with two clicks of a button. A plug-in takes around 30 seconds to download, and users need to have cameras equipped on their computers.
Video chatting is one of the new apps flowing over Facebook's social infrastructure, Zuckerberg said.
Skype CEO Tony Bates appeared in the press conference to say Skype is talking with Facebook about introducing some paid products available through the Web format. Bates added that half of Skype’s traffic is video calling
Group video chat isn't available yet, but Zuckerberg said he wouldn't rule out the possibility in the future. He also added video chatting isn't available yet for mobile.
Facebook is also introducing Group Chat: one of its more requested feature, multi-person chatting will let Facebook users talk to many people at once, simply by adding another friend to a conversation. A button is clearly marked Add Friends to Chat. Multi-person chat is already possible on chat services such as Gmail Chat.
Finally, Zuckerberg announced a Chat redesign rolling out today. A new sidebar lists the people you message most, even listing your top Friends who might not be online. The sidebar scales to individual browser sizes and is not yet available for mobile users.
Earlier in the announcement, Zuckerberg dangled a few tantalizing stats: Facebook has now reached 750 million members, and users are now sharing 4 billion "things" on Facebook daily, as Zuckerberg put it.