It ain't the first time Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage to announce... something, but today's shindig is resulting in "something" that's a bit more exciting for the average user. As rumored, the world's most notable VoIP service is set to become exceedingly integrated with the world's most notable social network. Skype has just thrown up a teaser page for v5.3 for Windows (and v5.5 Beta), noting that Skype and Facebook will aim to provide "the best of both worlds."
Zuck is primarily announcing three main things today: group chat, a new way to chat ("an easier way to find someone who is online") and Skype-enabled video chat. Oh, and the tiny, tiny fact that there's now 750 million Facebook members. What's notable is just how easy it is to fire up a group chat (or send transcripts to group members who miss out) and get a video call going using your existing Skype contact list. A single click is all it takes, and we're told that it'll be rolled out to everyone "over the next few weeks" in 70 different languages. The new chat design will be scalable based on your browser size, and the company made a point to mention that it'll be listening closely to user input in order to iterate as it moves forward.
Tony Bates stepped up to the plate, and noted that over 300 million videocall minutes a month are going through Skype, and at peak times, over half of its traffic is video. He also noted that the technology behind it was "tough" to construct, but somehow it managed to hammer this whole thing out in around six months via joint development. There's also talk about future "paid products" in due time, and it's strikingly clear that this partnership isn't going to fade anytime soon. If you're looking to take a dive yourself, hit up the source links below for the Windows applications, and wear that F5 button out over at Facebook's homepage if you're more of the "in-browser" type.
Oh, and if you're curious about mobile -- video chat isn't active on that front yet, and Mark's not spilling any details on "when." To quote him on a question of time tables: "We'll see."
Update: Those on the web can get started right now. Of note, this forces open the familiar chat bar, so it doesn't much look like you can hide from "those people" while attempting to find folks on Skype. Sadly, we're also seeing that doing so can add loads of Facebook contacts to your Skype program, and there's no real way to see that it's happening until it's too late. Clever, Mark.
Update 2: We've spent a little time with both of the new options, and you can read up on our impressions here!