PALO ALTO, Calif. – Facebook announced "something awesome" Wednesday: video-calling, powered by Internet telephony giant Skype.
Prior to the launch, CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the adjective to describe the feature, which brings Skype's popular video-chat capabilities to Facebook, allowing multiple friends to talk and see each other at the same time.
Browse to a friend’s profile starting immediately and you’ll see a new button that says Call. Click it, and assuming the other user accepts your call, you’ll be immediately connected thanks to a new video chat plugin.
"Video chat has been around for years now, but it's still not an everyday activity for most people," acknowledged Philips Su, a Facebook engineer on the video calling team, in a blog post announcing the feature. "Sometimes it's too difficult to set up, or the friends you want to talk to are on different services."
"So a few months ago, we started working with Skype to bring video calling to Facebook. We built it right into chat, so all your conversations start from the same place. To call your friend, just click the video call button at the top of your chat window," Su wrote.
Facebook also unveiled Group Chat, which the company called "one of our most requested features," and a new chat design that shows the friends you message with most frequently, whether on or offline. Simply click on a friend to start chatting or send a message.
Video chatting is one of the few social networking features lacking in Facebook, an omission that has become even more glaring since Google launched an application called Hangouts.
Last week, the search giant unveiled Google+, a Facebook clone designed to play catch up in the social network space. Hangouts, a feature within Google+, has received some positive feedback for making video calls easy.
Facebook is feeling the pressure from Google's latest social networking effort, which prompted the big announcement, according to some industry observers.
NewsCore contributed to this report.