PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Hoping to give its users a more intimate, real-time way to stay in touch, Facebook introduced video chat Wednesday in a partnership with Skype, the Internet calling service.
The service will provide a way to connect with friends beyond simply posting messages, said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and chief executive, who announced the service here at the company's headquarters. Facebook's foray into video chatting comes a week after Google introduced Google(PLUS), its latest and most serious challenge yet in social networking. That service, which premiered last week in a limited test, includes video chatting for up to 10 people in an area of the site called Hangouts.
To a certain extent, Facebook is playing catch-up. The new Facebook service does not allow for group video chats, for example. It also is not available on mobile phones, unlike Skype's ordinary service. At Wednesday's event, Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook now has 750 million users worldwide.
Details of how the new video chatting will work are posted on Facebook's blog. It will be available to all users in the next few weeks, the blog says.
For Skype, the partnership with Facebook is a chance to give its service greater visibility beyond its 170 million users. Recruiting some of Facebook's users as potentially paying customers is undoubtedly a crucial motivation.
Making calls from computer to computer through Skype is free. But people who use Skype to call landline or mobile phones must pay.
Facebook's alliance with Skype expands an existing partnership between the two companies. Their cooperation started last year when
Skype let its users connect with their Facebook friends from Skype and get news feeds.
Last month, the partnership grew when Skype added a Facebook contacts tab and let Skype users send instant messages to their Facebook friends and comment on their friends' statuses all without leaving the Skype window.
The deal announced Wednesday comes as Microsoft closes in on its acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion. The purchase, announced two months ago, will give Microsoft a bigger footprint in online communications, an increasingly important business aimed at both consumers and corporate customers.
Microsoft, through its Skype acquisition, will also strengthen its ties to Facebook. Microsoft invested in Facebook in 2007 and provides search results.