Facebook announced at 1pm EST on July 6 their new “big” features; a redesign of their chat system and a new Video chat feature based on Skype LLC’s telecommunication platform.
The announcement followed several days of speculation after Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg walked into the company’s affiliate offices in Seattle and told reporters that “something big” would be announced on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg started the announcement by stating that the company had been “building stuff for the past 6 months,” and called the event “launching season 2011.” He went on to describe that the phase of the company’s strategy in determining how best to obtain more users and spread and extend its reach was over.
Zuckerberg confirmed that the company has reached over 750 million users, something he says gives the company confidence that they will continue to expand and establish themselves.
As sharing and the number of things users divulge on Facebook continues to grow exponentially, having reached some 4 billion things shared every single day, Facebook looks to begin shifting their developmental focus to private communications and individual chat.
The chat format itself now includes a feature where any user can invite any other user to an already-engaged chat with another person at any time, creating easily-composed ad-hoc group chats without the need to add that person to an established group page.
In order to better manage friends who are online and available for chat, Facebook is also adding a new chat sidebar. The sidebar will be integrated into the page depending on the width of the user’s computer screen, with some users not receiving it if their screens are not wide enough to support it.
Perhaps the most significant new feature, having generated plenty of buzz in the form of rumors prior to the official announcement, is the new Skype-integrated video chat. Skype CEO Tony Bates also spoke at the announcement to describe the intent of joining the world’s largest social network with the world’s largest telecommunication community.
The feature is implemented in the form of a simple button at the top corner of every chat window, where once clicked, will send a request for video chat to the other user. If the other user accepts, a video chat window will open and allow both participants to engage in conversation.
Zuckerberg stated that each of the new Facebook features would be implemented today.
The new product announcements come just over a week after search-giant Google launched its own new social network, Google+.
This latest foray by Google launched in an invite-only “trial” phase on June 28 which included several features like a comprehensive group video chat, text chat, and friend classification. Google+ plans to fully launch publicly sometime in the near future.