Facebook has signed a deal with Skype to add video calls to its social networking service, and will roll out several new features over the next few months focusing on sharing data rather than just trying to gain new users.
The new service will see a mini-Skype client embedded in the Facebook platform, allowing users to initiate video calls by clicking on a button on the updated chat page.
The recipient of the call does not need to be an existing Skype user, and the software to enable the call can be downloaded in around 10 seconds, the firm said.
"Skype's mission is to make communications as pervasive as possible," said Skype chief executive Tony Bates. "With this deal we get a huge reach and there's no finer social platform. We could also add Skype paid services to the system."
Bates explained that Skype handles more than 300 million minutes of video calls a day, accounting for over half of all data passing through the system at peak times.
The Facebook video chat service is currently only one-on-one, and solely between desktop Facebook users, but that could change over time. It will run on Windows and Mac, but not Linux, and on IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, but not Opera.
"Logically, from an engineering standpoint, Facebook to Skype calls (and vice versa) is a good step," Philip Su, the only full-time Facebook engineer on the project, told V3.co.uk.
"At this stage, however, we wanted to make sure we got the basic service right at launch."
The new service is part of a general redesign of the Facebook Groups and chat functions, allowing on-the-fly group discussions.
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