In a recent source-fuelled report by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, it is suggested that Facebook will unveil a new video chat feature next week, which will work in-browser as part of the social network and will be powered by Skype.
While we have spent the last few weeks speculating when a native Facebook iPad app might be released and even discussing the company’s secret “Project Spartan,” the announcement Facebook is expected to make next week (in Seattle, WA) will instead focus on video chat. Currently, the social network boasts an in-browser instant messaging service, and according to Arrington’s source, Facebook’s video chat service will work in the same way: To access the feature, users won’t have to leave their Web browser (everything will work “in-browser,” which is great).
Apparently, the service will also require a desktop competent. But here’s the interesting part: Arrington’s sources also note that Facebook’s video chat service will be powered by Skype.
As many of you will already know, Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring Skype (for around $8.5 billion). However, there’s no reason Microsoft and Facebook can’t work together – as Dana Wollman of Engadget reminds us, Microsoft did invest $240 million in Facebook back in 2007.
Undoubtedly, this would be good news for both Skype and Facebook: Zuckerberg’s social network gets a video calling feature (much like the recently launched Google+, which may or may not become a key competitor in the coming years), and Skype – with 170 million users – could be used by as many as 750 million Facebook fans.
Does this mean the Facebook app will be updated to support the feature? Obviously, we don’t know. A Skype app is already available in the App Store, which allows users to make video calls to one another. And it could be that Skype doesn’t want this feature to migrate over to Zuckerberg’s Facebook application. At the same time, however, this could be in the works: Perhaps the Facebook app will soon receive an amazing update, adding support for this video calling service and making the app universal. Who knows?
Personally, I think video chat is an important move for Facebook to make – not only because it adds another feature to the ever-growing social network, but, as mentioned, because one of Google+’s most interesting and alluring features (for me, at least) is “Hangout.” With Hangout, users can easily participate in group video chats, in-browser, for as long or as little as they want. Furthermore, the Hangout is open to users’ friends – it’s easy to join people’s Hangouts, if you wish, and it’s easy to leave them again. Obviously, it’s important for Facebook to match Google+’s features before Google’s social network is open for the public.
We’ll keep you posted on Facebook’s upcoming announcement. And in the meantime, if you have an opinion on the subject, feel free to post it in the comments.