Facebook is reportedly planning this week to team up with Skype to launch a video chat function for its millions of users.
It would mean that Facebook members, already accustomed to posting status updates and photographs, sharing news stories and sending messages via their profiles, would also be able to video chat live with other members.
The news was reported by a respected technology blog, Tech Crunch, in a story written by its editor, Michael Arrington, a well-known figure in social media circles across the world. "Next week, says a source with knowledge of the partnership, Facebook will launch a new video chat product, powered by Skype," Arrington wrote.
Rumours about a tie-up between Facebook and Skype have swirled for several years without a finished product emerging. But this latest round of speculation is given credence by the fact that Facebook's young founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced a major news conference for a new product this Wednesday.
Zuckerberg told reporters that the firm would "launch something awesome" that had been developed by the firm's Seattle research engineering office. Predictions that this would involve video chat were also boosted by the fact that press invitations to the event were decorated with a small chat icon with a silhouette of a person in one of them. "Suddenly those chat icons in the invitation have a lot more meaning," Arrington commented.
Another influential tech blog, Mashable, confirmed the story. "While Facebook and Skype aren't saying anything officially, our sources confirm that Skype-powered video chat on Facebook will indeed be launching next week," the website reported.
If true, the move is likely to cement Facebook even further into the lives of its growing number of global users. The company, founded in 2004, is already one of the biggest and most influential in the world, with an estimated 500 million-plus active users.
Through the exploding industry of social media, Facebook's influence is spreading through the media, entertainment and advertising industries. Having a video chat function using Skype would extend its reach even further, potentially encroaching on the mobile telephone sector.
Facebook's success has turned 27-year-old Zuckerberg into one of the richest self-made men in the world, worth billions of dollars. Last year he was the subject of the Hollywood film The Social Network, which was nominated for eight Oscars.
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