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The new video calling feature was unveiled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a presentation at his company's headquarters on Wednesday. It was unveiled alongside two other new features: group chat, and a redesigned chat and friends list interface.
Zuckerberg said Facebook's partnership with an outside company like Skype, which was recently bought by Microsoft, is important because it represents his company's belief that individual applications are best created by those who specialize in them. He said implementing Skype technology is a better option than Facebook attempting to create its own sub-standard services.
"We build the infrastructure, we're years ahead in wiring it up, and we're going to enable folks to build world-class apps on top of that," he said of his company's strategy.
Facebook engineer named Philip Su gave a run-down of the new video call feature. One click to a video call button in a Web browser brings up a call. Wednesday's live demonstration of the service was conducted on a Mac.
Su showed how the video chat is enabled by downloading an applet in a browser with just two clicks. He said most users on a broadband connection should be able to download and enable the service within 30 seconds.
Video chat will begin rolling out today, and Facebook has touted the ease of use with Skype integration, which will make it possible for non-technical users to engage in video chat.
"No separate accounts, no separate websites to go to," Su said. "The download is small and easy."
Of course, Apple has its own video chat protocol designed to be simple and easy for end users: FaceTime. That Apple-only service is available on iOS devices with forward-facing cameras, namely the iPhone 4, iPad 2, fourth-generation iPod touch. It can also be used on Macs with Apple's FaceTime application.
But while FaceTime is available on mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, Zuckerberg said Wednesday that Skype video chat in Facebook is a Web-only feature "for now," meaning it will not be available in Facebook's iPhone application.
Zuckerberg promised more products set to launch in the coming weeks and months. He referred to this period as Facebook's "launching season" of 2011.
One product likely to launch is an official Facebook application for iPad that is said to be in the works. Last month, The New York Times said that the social network would release an application optimized for the 9.7-inch display of the iPad.
Facebook is also said to be at work on a secret HTML5-based Web application platform dubbed "Project Spartan." One rumor last month claimed that Apple is helping Facebook to the development of the project.