Sunday, July 10, 2011

Facebook Video Chat With Skype

Hands On: Facebook Video Chat With Skype

We already like Skype and, despite ambivalence, we're trained to use Facebook, so an announcement that brings the two together has our interest. Facebook Video Chat, announced at today's (debatably) "awesome" event, integrates Skype video calling into Facebook Chat. It isn't perfect—the video quality is average and calling is restricted to one friend, for now—but the new feature makes video calling a whole lot more convenient for Facebook's 750 million users.

You can get Facebook Video Chat today by navigating to 
CLICK HERE . On, you can initiate your first call by opening a chat with an active, Webcam-equipped friend and clicking the video camera icon to start a video call.
The first time isn't entirely effortless. I had to install a Java file on my MacBook Pro, but thankfully it's a tiny (29KB) one-time deal. From there, starting a call with PCMag junior analyst Jill Duffy was easy: The video started up quickly and the quality was acceptable for personal use (and it's Facebook, after all).

Facebook Video Chat is a minimalist at heart. In the vein of FaceTime, a video call occurs in a small, button-free window with edge-to-edge video. When I cursored over the video, the window buttons were revealed and the size of my video feed (tucked in the top-left corner) expanded slightly. From here, I could end a session by clicking the "x" or launch a full-screen conversation by clicking the maximize button.

After I finished chatting with Jill, I brought in PCMag software analyst Michael Muchmore, who reviewed Skype 5.3 for Windows. At first we hit a snag: The call initiated as it had with Jill, but I was unable to see his video feed. Once I quit and re-launched the chat, however, it worked as expected. While Michael was impressed with the simplicity of the experience, he found the quality, especially from my video feed, underwhelming, though this could be attributable to my standard-fare, built-in Webcam.

Facebook Video Chat won't soon replace the standalone Skype client. It doesn't have the valuable features, HD video quality, or multi-party video chat. It does, however, make Skype video calls incredibly convenient by embedding the definitive conferencing service in the definite social network. 

~ William Fenton