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Facebook unveils video calling, new chat features

All of the social network's new features, including its Skype-powered video calling, are being rolled out today.

Facebook's new video chatting feature in action.
Facebook's new video chatting feature in action.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made waves last week when he said his company would be announcing "something awesome" this week.

Zuckerberg held court today in his company's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, and launched three improvements to the social network: Skype-powered video calling, group chat, and a redesigned chat tool.

Facebook's video calling is built into the company's chat platform. Users can click a video-call button at the top of the chat window to start a video conversation with a friend. According to Facebook, the feature is "the easiest way to get connected with video."

Outside of video chatting, Facebook also showed off a new group-chat feature, allowing users to have a conversation with multiple people at the same time. The company's chat tool has been redesigned to adjust in size based on the user's browser window to make it easier to chat. In addition, users will find a sidebar that's populated with the people they communicate with most often.

Facebook's announcements might seem like somewhat of a letdown considering all the rumors that made the rounds prior to today's unveiling.

Following Zuckerberg's comments about "something awesome," there was speculation that the company might finally unveil its long-awaited native iPad application. Last month, The New York Times reported that the application was in its final stages and would be offered in the coming weeks.

There were also rumors swirling that Facebook would launch a new iPhone photo-sharing application that TechCrunch discovered last month. That app reportedly allows users to share photos with others, but would not be integrated into Facebook's existing iPhone application.

Facebook didn't even mention a new platform TechCrunch also spotted last month, called Project Spartan. According to the social-media blog, Spartan is an application marketplace designed for Apple's mobile Safari browser that would take on the iPhone maker's App Store.

But just because the topics weren't covered doesn't mean Facebook won't announce them in due time. At today's event, Zuckerberg said video calling, group chat, and the new chat design, all of which are being rolled out immediately, are the start of "launching season 2011" at Facebook.

Click here to see CNET's live blog of today's Facebook event.