Video calls via Facebook appear to be coming to the Facebook platform, possibly providing Facebook’s answer to the Hangouts function in Google’s new social network, Google+.
Facebook will implement Skype calling, including video chat, within the Facebook interface, TechCrunch reported. One industry source confirmed the partnership.
Facebook has confirmed a launch event for next week.
A spokeswoman for Skype did not deny a partnership. “We don’t have anything to share at this moment. Will keep you posted if that changes,” Sravanthi Agrawal, a spokeswoman for Skype, said in an email.
In 2010, Facebook said that it had partnered with Skype on Skype 5.0, which allowed users to sign in with Facebook and then connect to their friends using the Skype application. A Facebook application called SkypeMe for Facebook also allows Skype calling from within the Facebook network.
In March, Facebook and Skype were said to be mulling a partnership that would tie Skype directly into the Facebook environment. Currently, users can call Facebook friends using Skype, a less integrated approach.
“Last year we announced the integration of Facebook in Skype, so people can keep up to date with their Facebook friends through News Feed in Skype and even call and SMS their Facebook friends on any phone from Skype,” Facebook said in March. “With regards to any further integration, we don’t comment on rumor and speculation and have nothing to announce at this time.”
In June, the Department of Justice approved the $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype by Microsoft.
One big question: would a Skype app support group video chat? One of the key features of Google+, Hangouts, supports group video chat of up to ten simultaneous users, according to a Google spokesman. Skype also allows group video calls up to ten users, but has previously required a subscription to Skype Premium, which costs $8.99 per month, with other pricing options for longer periods of time.
A Skype application for Facebook could work something like Bobsled, a T-Mobile VOIP app for Facebook that launched in April.
Bobsled calling is performed via a single click on the phone icon – but to call another user, users have to download and install software from LetsBobsled.com, the T-Mobile site. (Accepting a call will launch a Flash-based player.)
Facebook blocked the Bobsled app soon after its launch, but for reasons of design. “We are voluntarily and temporarily suspending the Bobsled service as we work with our partners at Facebook to address their design questions, including working to ensure that the Bobsled experience is clearly differentiated and is not mistaken for a Facebook created property,” T-Mobile said at the time. A redesigned app is currently live.
More importantly, however, T-Mobile also said that it too had a roadmap to video chat, which would place it in direct competition to Skype. The service is powered by Vivox, whose representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.
“T-Mobile plans to evolve Bobsled by T-Mobile to include video chat in the future, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” a T-Mobile spokesman said via email.
Skype recently released a version of its software for Android.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:02 PM PT on July 1.
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