Facebook is expected to launch a new video chat product, powered by Skype, which works on a browser. This was the conclusion drawn by TechCrunch following Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tipping off the Seattle press that the company would be launching an "awesome" new product next week that has been built by Facebook's Seattle team.
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The press invitations to that event did not disclose much, other than "Please join us for an event at Facebook on July 6." However, quoting a source with knowledge of the partnership, the site TechCrunch suggested that the Facebook chat icons in the invitation will have a lot more meaning. Neither Facebook nor Skype have confirmed or commented on these reports that are creating a buzz in the online world.
The product, according to the report, has been built on Skype and will include a desktop component. But it's unclear whether it will work if a user has Skype already installed on the computer, or if additional software will need to be downloaded even if the user has Skype.
Google users can use its chat to have audio and video talks. Users in the US can also speak free of charge to other users in Canada, and pay a reasonable sum to talk live with users in other countries. If the Facebook-Skype video chat speculation turns out to be true, there will be another battle for users in the offing. In the last couple of weeks, both Google and Facebook have been making announcements, all aimed at capturing more online traffic. For instance, Google launched a demo version of its social networking product Google+ to tackle Facebook, while Facebook announced Facebook Credits in India.
The rumour about the new product has gathered steam since Facebook and Skype have been working together, including integration of various Facebook features into the Skype service. Facebook has over 750 million users, while Skype (acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion this May) has 170 million. But it boasts of over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010.
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Last December, Skype announced the new version of its iPhone application that brings video calling to millions of mobile users around the globe over both 3G and WiFi networks. Available to download from the Apple App Store, Skype for iPhone App allows iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners to make and/or receive free Skype video calls.
Reuters, meanwhile, reports that whatever it (the product) is, it has been developed by the 40-person team based in Seattle.
There are also talks that the Facebook team in Seattle has been trying to build up a desktop software team. It is reportedly working on Project Spartan, the codename for a new platform Facebook is planning to launch soon. It's entirely HTML5-based and the aim is to reach some 100 million users in a key place - mobile. The platform is aimed at working on the iPhone (and iPad).