Facebook Introduces Video Chat

Live-blogging live from Facebook HQ Tuesday.

10:57 a.m. -- Zuckerberg wrapping things up. Says we will share many more things in the future, and more with mobile devices. Thought:  This will use up an awful lot of broadband. Hope the wifi companies are ready.

10:55 a.m. -- Video calling not live for mobile yet. Chat redesign doesnt have wide screens yet. And the group chat works on mobile.

10:54 a.m. -- How to handle all this data? Zuckerberg says Facebook will be building more data centers because of all the traffic expected to roll in.

10:52 a.m. -- Zuckerberg talking about group chat .. Says you can expect to do it on the big screen soon, but says it's "mostly a web thing for now."

10:48 a.m. -- Zuckerberg asked about Google +. He says lots of companies, not just Google, but also Netflix, are going to get into social networking. He says you pretty much have to. Says it's too early to judge Google.

"A very little time on the service" talking about Google+. A lot of apps and features that are trying to build on top of social infrastructure. i view a lot of this as validation that this is the way the next five years are going to play out. all apps are going to be social"

10:47 a.m. -- Summary -- "A lot more things like this over the next few months and years" -- including partnerships and people building on top of the platform.

10:45 a.m. -- This looks to be a short announcement for a tech launch. Zuckerberg back onstage to wrap up. Says Skype and Facebook not possible without "social infrastructure." Says partnership makes sense. Zuck now opens the floor to Q & A.

"Long term partnership far outweighs whether users move from Skype to Facebook or vice cersa" -- Tony the CEO of Skype.

10:42 a.m. -- Skype CEO Tony Bates takes the stage.  Talking about how Skype averages 300 million minutes a month of video chat.  Excited to hook up with Facebook. Billions of people is the intended scale, via FB -- six months of dev, according to Bates to deliver video chat. Skype paid products may come via FB platform.

10:41 a.m. -- Creating ad hoc groups with a right-click and add users into a thread. New chat design: it will scale to the browser size, to include those that are not IMable, but one-click access to send a quick note. VIdeo calling: not only thru chat tab, but any friends page/profile.

10:37 a.m. -- Now, video calling .. You can call someone instantly if they're online. FB engineer now showing it off by calling one of his "friends." Instead of just typing message, you can click "call" button, see each other & chat.

10:36 a.m. -- Zuckerberg hands the mic over to other FB execs .. Now talking about Group Chat.  Your friends will see if you're on fb chatting, and can join in.

As for chat design, there's a new sidebar, where you can send message people faster.

10:30 a.m. -- Zuckerberg...today, we're rolling out video chat with Skype. "It turns out that dude I walked by will get to video chat with his grandson.," Zuckerberg said.

10:28 a.m. -- Facebook is announcing private communication features, including group chat, a new design and video calling via Skype. 10-20 second download for the video app. Piggybacks on the existing IM relationship -- unlike having to have Skype.  FB is looking to own the 'social platform' and graph so that others can be best in class with apps, features, etc.

10:26 a.m. -- Zuckerberg:  we now have 750 million users, but that's not the big deal.  It's how people are sharing.  He compares "sharing" growth to Moore's Law.

10:22 a.m. -- Zuckerberg talking about the "exponential growth" of people willing to share details about their lives.  Seems to be ready to tell us they now have 750 million users.

10:20 a.m. -- Zuckerberg walks in, says this is "launching season" at Facebook, starting now. Says his neighbor wants video chat.  Zuckerberg told him, "stay tuned."

Mark says they've been building stuff, so he's calling today the beginning of Launching Season 2011. "We're not everywhere yet... but there’s a clear arc that the world generally believes it will be everywhere."

10:15 a.m. -- Mark Zuckerberg takes the stage wearing a pair of jeans and a gray T-shirt. The driving narrative it is about what new social apps now that you  have this social infrastructure. Four billion things shared everyday via Facebook aggregator.

10 a.m. -- At Facebook .. Crammed full of reporters .. Waiting for announcement. Buzz is all about video chat.

Apparently Google+ Hangouts group video chat is such a "killer app" that sources say Facebook went into speedy negotiations with Skype to battle the competition. (Could it be because Mark Zuckerberg and his various Facebook colleagues noticed it after joining Google+ in droves?)

TechCrunch first put out the rumor last week, mentioning that Microsoft Corp. -- which is the pending owner of Skype -- is also a Facebook shareholder. So if Facebook were to use any kind of video chat service, wouldn't it make sense to use Skype? But now that Hangouts is being touted as the coup de grace of Google+, Facebook may have put the accelerator on the project, according to the New York Times.

Justin Uberti, Google's tech lead for real-time communications, explained on his blog that Hangouts will also be opened to third-party apps and services, something Skype is not. Another problem for Skype is that it's operating on older technology, according to the Business Insider.

Skype is built on peer-to-peer technology. Each Skype call is routed using directories stored on the PCs of other users, and the calls are connected directly from PC to PC. That works fine when you're connecting with one or two other people, and is a big reason why Skype . . . has been able to scale massively without a lot of expensive infrastructure.

The problem is that as Skype adds more people, the same peer-to-peer tech requires way more bandwidth just to maintain connections and slows down, one of the reasons it recommends video chat with no more than five people at a time. Hangouts is built on video streams routed through Google servers, more expensive but better for a larger-scale multiperson video chat.

So, if Facebook is launching video chat with Skype today, it should realize that its technology is already a little antiquated.

You can watch the announcement, live, right here. And NBC Bay Area Tech Reporter Scott Budman will be at Facebook HQ with live updates.


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