No, it doesn’t remedy Skype’s kludgy, five-steps-backward Mac interface, but the new Skype beta for OS X (and standard version for Windows) will allow you to call Facebook friends if you so desire. It’s available now, and promises to let you “See your Facebook News Feed and update your status” and “Like and comment on Facebook posts.” I pulled it down—23.7MB on a Mac—and took it for a spin.
Upon install, you’ll be prompted to use the new Facebook feature (or not). If you choose to, you’re prompted for your Facebook login, at which point Skype requests a pile of information from your Facebook account, including your profile and stuff like photo and videos info, but also the option to access [your] data any time, even “when [you’re] not using the application.” Gulp.
Assuming you say yes, Skype’s main view becomes a kind of “status update” mishmash, divvying friends into columns that scale to the size of the window (on a MacBook Air at 1366 by 768 pixels, I can fit three columns comfortably).
If you want to switch between Facebook, Skype, or a hybrid view, those options sit between vertical bars to the right of an icon for refreshing status updates, which don’t pop in automatically. At the very top of this view, your Facebook profile pic rests beside a text input box that connects back to your Facebook status feed, allowing you to sound off without logging into Facebook proper. It’s all very functional-looking and self-explanatory, but—at least on the Mac side—as visually bland as you’ve probably come to expect from this company.
Each friend is represented by their name and Facebook profile pic, below which you’ll see a friend’s latest status update, when it was delivered, and have the option to “Like” or “Add a comment.” To the right of each name, Skype places a retro handset icon. Hover over this and you’ll have the ability to call whatever numbers your friends have shared through their Facebook profile. If they’ve opted not to store Facebook numbers, you’ll instead have the option to invite them to Skype, which certainly makes sense from Skype’s standpoint, but—depending on your proclivity to make Skype your social networking contact hub—may or may not from yours.
And that’s about it. I’ve poked around in “Preferences” and I’m seeing nothing new or Facebook-related, so for now, you’re limited to the options up top in the main view. There’s no “remove status update” option, for instance, which would’ve come in handy, seeing as Skype keeps recirculating its “How to make a free Skype call” entry in the feed. If you want to disconnect from Facebook, a cogwheel in the upper-right-hand corner lets you do so (or reconnect), though if you want to remove Skype’s tentacles from your account, you’ll need to log into Facebook direct, go to Account Settings, click Apps in the left-hand stack, then remove Skype’s access.
Did Skype need Facebook? What communications app doesn’t, given Facebook’s reach. But the more pressing question is, did we need Facebook on Skype? I don’t, because I only use Skype for international calls or to record interviews (the few record-call options for the iPhone are abominable). If you’re more an everyday Skype users with a Facebook habit, on the other hand, meet your new daily plaything.