Facebook announced new features at its Palo Alto headquarters today, including group chat, Skype-based Facebook video calls, and a redesign of Facebook’s chat interface. Facebook video calls will begin availability for many users today.
While Facebook has previously done chats of three or more people through the formal Groups feature, this new version of group chats will allow anyone to create an impromptu chat room with anyone, regardless of whether they’re already in a Group together.
Also, Facebook will detect people’s computer monitor specifications and add right sidebars dedicated completely to chat to each of their screens if they have enough screen space. Facebook hopes this will make it easier for people to use the new features.
Just as notable is the video chat feature, which allows you to make video calls to friends right inside your browser by clicking a link in the chat pane or on their profiles. It’s powered by Skype, which is already one of the most popular platforms for making video calls over the internet.
While Skype usually requires you to download an application for your Mac or PC, the Facebook version of the technology will run right inside your browser after a two-click, 30-second plugin installation. It will work similarly to Google+’s Hangouts feature, which prompts you to quickly install the Google Talk browser plugin.
Facebook is not yet supporting video chats for groups of three or more people, which is the basic idea behind Google+ Hangouts.
What This Means For Business
At the moment, there are few direct implications of this feature for businesses. Facebook hasn’t announced any video or group chat features for brand or business Pages. That doesn’t mean that integration will never come; it just means it’s not here today.
Like Facebook’s recent update to its Messages inbox, these new features show a focus on developing new tools for private communication instead of public sharing. That’s not the most exciting news for businesses, which benefit most from the exposure granted by the public sharing features of social networks.
Stay tuned, though. Now that the private communication features have been updated, we’re sure you’ll see some new tools for organizations in the near future.
[Image credit: redjar]
Samuel Axon: Samuel is the Editorial Director supervising Sprout Social's editorial and web content projects. He has years of experience in blogging and social media, having previously worked as an editor at social media and technology news sites Mashable and Engadget. He also helped build the white label web content management system Crowd Fusion from the ground up.