Facebook announced three products at a press conference today: ad hoc group chat, a redesigned chat experience including a buddy list sidebar, and built-in one-to-one video chat from Skype. No money is changing hands between Facebook and Skype, but neither ruled out future distribution of Skype paid products. Video chat is free and nicely integrated, with a small java applet download, but no doubt the commentariat will say it pales next to Google+ Hangouts. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Skype CEO Tony Bates both said 1:1 was the dominant video chatting mode, but Google’s centralized architecture makes it easier to deliver group video chat quality than Skype’s peer-to-peer approach. These new features and enhanced user presence discovery are nice pieces of a unified communications hub, but Facebook isn’t breaking new ground here. In his intro, Zuckerberg said this shows the industry is on the cusp of deploying apps on social infrastructure and Facebook’s focus is on the infrastructure rather than the apps. He said Facebook has 750 million active users, but the new metric will be how much stuff they share. That is increasing exponentially, driven by apps and mobile, and a little by sharing within groups (50% of Facebook users use Groups now).
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