How To Use Facebook's New Video Calling Feature

mark zuckerberg

Photo: Matt Rosoff | Business Insider

Earlier today, Facebook teamed up with Skype to launch video calling right within Facebook.Facebook is trying to beat back a challenge from Google, which began beta-testing its own social video chat feature, Google+ Hangouts, last week.

The Facebook-Skype calls are one to one only, while Hangouts supports up to 10 people.

But Facebook has two big advantages. First — and most important — a lot of your friends are already on the service. Facebook has 750 million users. Google+ isn’t even open to the public yet.

Second, Facebook claims the feature is so easy to use, even the least technical people on Facebook should be able to figure it out fast.

We checked it out for ourselves, and they’re not lying. Here’s how you do it.

A list of your most commonly contacted friends will show up. Hover over the one you want to call. Here, I'm calling my wife.

(Note: names and some faces are greyed out to protect their privacy.)

This window will pop up from the bottom of the screen. Click the camera icon to start a call.

The first time you place a video call from a computer where you've never done it before, you'll be prompted to install some software.

Follow the instructions at the bottom left of the screen. Facebook has tailored them for each browser. These instructions are for Firefox on Windows.

Once you've done this, a pop-up will appear to show you that you're placing a call.

Here's what an incoming call looks like. It also makes a ringing alert noise. It doesn't sound like anything else, so you won't mistake it for another app.

Here's what the call looks like.*

*This picture is a little confusing -- I'm actually logged into two accounts, my wife's and mine, on two computers right next to each other. When you place a call, your image appears in the small window. The person you're talking to appears in the big window. Note that the poor image quality of the big window has nothing to do with Facebook or Skype -- it's because I'm using a netbook with a relatively crummy camera to 'receive' the call.

*Once again, when you receive a call, you appear in the little window. The person who's talking to you appears in the big window.

Here's an interesting feature they didn't talk about today: visual voicemail. If the person doesn't want to take the call, you can leave a message. It uses Flash, so you'll have to turn on your camera and microphone.

Pretty cool, huh? Now check out what Facebook is competing against....

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