Facebook Product Announcement: Video chat, group chat, new chat design

“Today marks the beginning of what we’ll call launching season 2011.” -Mark Zuckerberg, before announcing video chat, group chat, and a redesigned chat interface

Zuckerberg began by describing the evolution of social networking, which was originally about “connecting people.” Though we once doubted that social media would become ubiquitous, that question has been settled. Where do we go from here?

Now, the focus is on what “cool” social apps will be built–and big companies are taking notice. How will we measure engagement? Not just active users, but how many apps are being used, how much time people are spending on apps, the effect on the economy, and how much people are sharing.

Facebook hit 750 million users, but that’s not the important thing, Zuckerberg said; rather, it’s that people are sharing more and more.

courtesy of http://www.livestream.com/facebookannouncements

Facebook will be rolling out “a lot of stuff” over the next few months. For now, it’s group chat; a new chat design that makes it easier to find friends online; and video chat (in collaboration with Skype).

Group chat: Over half of the people on Facebook are active users of groups, and people love chatting with these groups (which average 7 people). Using the normal chat interface, you can add other friends to the chat.

New chat design: This takes into account your browser size, so it might add a sidebar with a listing of your friends (photos and names) online.

Video chat: Accessible through the normal chat interface and on friends’ pages. “Your least technical friend can get online and connected with someone else,” said Facebook engineer Phillip Su. According to Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, Skype boasts an average of 300 million minutes of video a month. It will be a “true partnership” with Facebook.

Zuckerberg said they’ll leave the development of add-on apps to other entrepreneurs, compared to other Internet companies that try to do everything (*cough* Google *cough*).

Question and Answer
(Zuckerberg unless otherwise noted)

Q: Is group video chat in the works, and what do you think of Google Hangouts?

A: Today we’re just rolling out one-on-one chat. “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” but the majority of video chat is one-on-one. “I just think that this is super awesome.” As for Google+, everyone is moving in a social direction.

Q to Bates: Are you concerned that people will shift from Skype to Facebook video?

A by Bates: Not really.

Q: How do you decide to start video chat?

A: It rings and you click “accept.”

Q to Bates: What’s in it for Skype financially?

A by Bates: Today, we’re just focusing on getting a broad reach, although paid Skype products may be in the works.

Q: Are these features available on mobile devices and tablets?

A: Video is not live for mobile yet, but group chat works. “These are mostly web features for now.”

Q: How will Facebook accommodate the added load of video?

A: We’ll build more of our own data centers, but Skype’s video calling is p2p anyway.

Q: What is the current overlap between Facebook and Skype users?

A: We don’t know.

Q: What are the financial terms of the partnership? How did Microsoft play a role?

A: We’re figuring out what we want to do next. We have a good relationship with Microsoft.

Q: What’s happening in group and friend management?

A: We’ll see more apps. Only around 5% of users adopt friend lists. Sharing to small groups is not the biggest trend (it’s topped by apps and mobile).


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