Skype 5 dials up Facebook integration

Leading VoIP service Skype has officially released Skype 5 for Windows, which makes the real-time chatting application more social than ever by integrating with Facebook. Skype users will be able to interact with Facebook friends and communities right within the Skype application, posting status updates and comments, liking items, and—of course—call and SMS their Facebook friends.

Skype 5 integrates a news feed of status messages from Facebook friends who are using Skype, and enables users to set their own Facebook status using a feature dubbed “mood messages.” The services rely on users linking their Facebook account to their Skype account; at that point, any friend who has made their phone number available on Facebook can be called directly from Skype.

In addition to new social features, Skype 5 also aims to further expose some long-standing but not-as-widely-used features of the service via a Skype Home tab, including screen sharing, SMS, file sharing, and more. A new search feature automatically shifts friends to the top of results listings, and Skype says the new version of the application offers improved call quality and is less likely to drop calls

Skype is also expanding its group video calling service, enabling support for up to 10 participants in a single video chat—although the group video calling feature is still in beta, and Skype envisions eventually charging for it separately as an add-on service. Skype has claimed that more than one third of the calls it currently handles are now video calls and anticipates video calls will eventually become the norm.

The Skype client application remains free, and Skype-to-Skype calling remains free; however, users must pay to connect to mobile phones and traditional landline phones, albeit at rates that are usually substantially lower than traditional phone carriers. Skype says a version of Skype 5 for Mac OS X should be available in a few months.

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