Facebook Announces Group Chats, Video Calling via Skype

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Days of wild speculation as to what “awesome” really is can finally be laid to rest.

Today Mark Zuckerberg, coated in a hurried layer of sweat (and excitement!), announced from the company’s Palo Alto headquarters that Facebook would be implementing a newly designed chat interface that allows for group chatting, and partnering with Skype to provide a new video calling service.

(VIDEO: The ‘Awesome’ Facebook Announcement and You: An Odd Todd Cartoon)

The news broke a few minutes ahead of Zuckerberg’s prepared speech, fittingly enough on Twitter.

The new chat design emphasizes Facebook’s pledge to provide “private communication channels,” and puts ease-of-use above all else to take advantage of Facebook’s non-tech savvy user base.

(MORE: Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Announce ‘Something Awesome’)

“It’s not going be be about wiring up the world,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s about what kind of stuff you’re going to be able to build, and what kind of apps you’re going to be able to build once you have this wiring in place.”

The new Facebook chat design takes into account a user’s browser size and scales with it, depending on how wide the user’s monitor is. If wide enough, it’ll implement a new sidebar for your friends a la AOL Instant Messenger, allowing one-click access to the people you message most.

(MORE: Live Blog: Facebook’s July 2011 ‘Something Awesome’ Event)

Another new feature will be the ability to engage in group chat with multiple users at the same time within the Facebook window.

The new video chat feature will be available via a partnership with Skype, and can be accessed from a button within the chat window. However, it won’t allow for group video conferencing like Google+. Smartphone compatibility for the live video messaging features will be available “down the line,” although the group chat features are available now on mobile devices.

“I just think this is super awesome,” said Zuckerberg said during a brief Q&A session. “It’s just so minimal and easy to use.” More information about the new services can be found on Facebook’s blog here.

So… awesome? Not so awesome? Maybe one big, “Hey look at us!”? Let us know what you think down below.

MORE: There Will Be Two Internets. Or, What You Really Need to Know About Google+

Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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