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Facebook Partners with Skype on Video Chat; Is this 'Awesome'?

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Be careful about overhyping things. That seems to have been the takeaway from today's live Facebook announcement.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, told Reuters that his company would "launch something awesome" next week. Today he announced integrated video chat (powered by Skype), group text chat, and a redesigned chat console.

The Internet let out a collective, "Hmmm," and then turned to Twitter.

"It's just not that exciting," tweeted @vickyayala. "We were hoping for an iPad app :-/ Does this news excite you?" asked @ilovetwill.

Video chat or video calling is a high-profile feature that gets a lot of headlines whenever a new company offers it, but never takes off in a big way. Look at when Apple added video calling to the iPhone: iPhone owners tried it a few times and then most forgot about it. Unless it's for business purposes or there's a new baby involved, people aren't all that wowed by video calling.

But maybe this time will be different. Bundled into the world's largest social network (with over 750 million users), Skype video calling will give people an easy way to make a face-to-face connection. Facebook is adding access in stages. It started by offering it to millions of users today and will add more accounts over time.

The video chat feature works with a plug-in that can be downloaded and installed in under a minute. Zuckerberg emphasized how easy and non-technical the installation was.

The company also modified its instant messaging tool so that it now offers group chat. The video chat is strictly one-to-one, for now. Zuckerberg said that group chat is in the works, as is mobile access.

"The vast majority of video chat is one-on-one chat. ... I just think this is super-awesome," CNN quoted Zuckerberg as saying.

Since the newly launched Google+ social network offers video, some will see this as a response. Really, it's a natural way for both services to grow, whether or not video chat finds widespread use.

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