As we mentioned yesterday, Facebook announced a new video chat service which they have already begun implementing. I installed the plugin to try it out today and was pretty impressed.
The first thing you’ll notice is a visual makeover of the entire chat box. The online indicator as well as close button and name have been relocated to the top of the box, and your text input it now located on the very bottom, which saves vertical space. Facebook has also removed the gradient from the boxes, opting for a flatter, cleaner light blue. And finally of course, beside the options and close buttons, we have a new one for video chatting.
To test it out, I called up a friend who didn’t have the update. On her screen a box popped up saying that I was calling, and prompting her to download the plugin, which again went smoothly.
Note: There were some backwards compatibility issues though. She is still running Firefox 3.5, and while the video did open when I invited her, she cannot invite others because she didn’t get the visual update with the new button. My own test was running Firefox 5 on which it worked completely.
Once open, the video chatting was quite smooth. A poor webcam at one end hurt the quality, but in terms of the software and running it in just the browser, I had no complaints. It opened and closed smoothly multiple times. One thing that I wasn’t expecting is the separate of the video call from the browser window. It opens up a separate program instance, meaning that you can minimize and move it around separately from the browser, and you can change tabs while still maintaining the call.
To try out Facebook video chat yourself, log into to Facebook and go to the video-calling page they have set up. You’ll have to download a quick plugin, and then you’ll be set.