We’re setting up shop this morning at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, covering a press event that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg heralded as “awesome” last week, causing stirs of Facebook anticipation smack in the middle of the Google + launch.
While Facebook could pull a fast one, our sources are telling us that the product to be unveiled will be a in-browser Facebook messaging system, developed by Facebook’s team in Seattle and part of a partnership between Facebook and Microsoft acquisition Skype.
If this is indeed the case the product will bring the potential of Facebook’s 750 million users to Skype’s 170 million, and serve as a competitor to the recently launched Google+ hangouts.
Along with the Livestream above, we’ll be liveblogging the event once it starts at 10am PST here. Stay tuned!
10:09 — I’m sitting here in Facebook’s second building, surrounded by press. The event hasn’t started yet. Word on the street it’ll be more like 10:15 am.
10:13 — The room has gone silent and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken the stage. “Today marks the beginning of launching season 2011.”
Zuck talks about his neighbor telling him that he hopes he’s launching video chat today. “Social networking is at its inflexion point.”
10:17 — Zuck is showing a slide “Last 5 Years And The Next 5 years.” The metric for the last 5 or 7 years has really been about user growth.
“The driving narrative for the next 5 years won’t be about wiring up the world,” says Zuck.
10:20 — “Companies that are really best in class are thinking about how can we offer our product and do it in a social way, with social infrastructure. One thing that is really important is how do you measure these things. The next five years won’t really be about measuring active users.”
Zuck says that one of the most interesting metrics is the rate of sharing, which is growing at an exponential rate, twice as much as it was a year ago, and one year from now will be twice as much as it is today. “Humans are really bad at understanding exponential growth.”
10:22 — Zuck goes on about exponential growth, “How tall is a piece of paper folded 50 times? To the moon and back.”
10:23 — Zuck confirms that Facebook has 750 million users, says that Facebook didn’t report it because they don’t thing that’s the metric.
10:25 — Zuck is showing a graph of the exponential growth of sharing, trying to predict the kinds of apps that can handle the rapidly expanding growth of the behavior.
10:26 — “We’re at the elbow of the curve,” for sharing. “All the apps that you’re going to use will be dramatically different,” says Zuck.
10:27 — Zuck says that people are sharing over 4 billion things a day on Facebook.
10:28 — Zuck says that he will be announcing three things today, Group chat. New Design. Video Calling. We’re on Group Chat right now.
10:30 — “We’re already one of the biggest chat networks in the world,” he says about the availability of Group Chat. The video chat partnership will be with Skype, Zuck confirms.
10:30 — Turns out that Zuck’s neighbor will get to video chat with his grandson today. The social infrastructure is so crucial to these types of things, “We just have this belief at Facebook validated by the success of Facebook, entrepreneurs who focus on one thing do better.”
Zuck says that Facebook wants to be the go to place for social infrastructure.
10:32 — Peter Deng takes the stage to talk about groups. 50% of people on Facebook are using groups.
As of today group chat will have an “Add friends to chat” feature to traditional chat. Looks a lot simple enough.
10:35 — Deng is also demo’ing the New Design will take into account your browser size and a streamlined contacts bar to the right of your page.
10:35 — Phillip Su from Facebook’s Seattle team is demoing video calling. The video calling feature has launched to millions of users says Su.
10:37 — “Can you believe that your least technical friend can get online and connected?” Su says about the one button click feature.
“This is about the world’s largest and most connected social network, and the world’s largest provider of video.”
10:39 — Mark Zuckerberg invites the CEO of Skype, Tony Bates, onstage. “Skype’s mission has really been to make communications as pervasive as possible.”
Skype has hit 300 million minutes of video per month, Bates says. “For us we think this makes a lot of business sense. Thinking about having Skype paid products on the web. We look forward to bringing video calling powered by Skype on Facebook to every one of you out there.
10:43 — Zuckerberg takes the stage to summarize the announcement, Group Chat, the new design, and Video Calling. “This integration could not be built without the social infrastructure … We’re really excited about what we have to bring.”
10:45 – And we’re in Q&A. Ben Parr asks Zuckerberg about future features and what he thinks of Google Hangouts. “The vast majority of Google Chat is one on one chat.” Says Bates, “The one to one intimate experience is the most important part of this thing.”
Zuckerberg on Google +: The last five years have been about building the social infrastructure and connecting people, the next five about building these apps. It’s going to be a hybrid in all these places trying to build on social infrastructure that already exists. Every app is going to be social.
Tony Bates answers an audience question about whether users will migrate over from Skype to Facebook. His answer? No.
An audience question about how easy it is to accept a chat: “The video camera won’t turn on unless you accept,” Zuck says.
Rafe Needleman from Cnet asks about mobile features. The video calling isn’t live for mobile yet but the group chat works. “These are mostly web features for now.”
Audience Q about scaling issues: Zuck says that while they’re planning for more data centers, Skype’s peer to peer technology will be handled by Skype.
“We’re already building out the roadmap to the next set of things we want to do …” Zuck alludes to the paid features planned by Bates. “We have a really great relationship with Microsoft.”
Zuck says he feels more comfortable with Skype now post-Microsoft acquisition.
Last question from the audience: What’s happening in terms of group management and friend management over time? In 5 years people will be sharing 5 times as many things. The trends a) proliferation of apps, there will be more different social experiences that people have b) mobile, will amplify the amount of sharing c) the sociology of how sharing develops.
We focus on groups. And the definition of groups according to Zuck is that people in the group know they’re in the group. In a short amount of time we have 50% of our userbase on groups. Overall the trend of small groups being the thing that drives the majority of sharing. Apps are the biggest driver of sharing and mobile is the second biggest driver.
“Try it out. It’s a lot of fun,” he says finally about the new chat features, leaving the stage.