PALO ALTO, Calif. - Facebook will integrate free Skype video chat into its service as it looks to cement its role as a communications hub and drive back Google Inc's foray into online social networking.
The agreement -- announced by Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, on Wednesday -- deepens the company's cooperation with Microsoft Corp, which is in the process of buying Skype to build up its Web presence.
Zuckerberg said Facebook has hit a record 750 million users. The new service, rolling out from Wednesday, could be a huge boost for Skype, which currently has about 145 million regular users.
"This is opening up a whole new user base for Skype," said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group. "The core of Skype users are people that have extraordinary circumstances -- they have a computer but no money, or they have friends and family on a different continent. This could ultimately grow the number of Skype numbers that use it within the United States."