Skype Gets Serious Facebook Integration

Skype 5.0 for Windows has just been released with a slew of improvements and feature additions, most significant of which is the inclusion of a Facebook tab that allows users to SMS, chat or call their Facebook friends via Skype right from the News Feed.

Skype’s Facebook integration is both sophisticated and sleek, and brings your Facebook experience inside Skype. Skype now offers a gateway to immediately call, text or chat with your Facebook contacts.

Facebook and Skype play nice inside the new Skype Home area of the application. Click the home icon and you’ll get the expanded Skype Home area, which is just a personal dashboard with news, alerts and a digest of mood messages. The new Facebook tab lives in this area, and this is where you can go to view your Facebook News Feed and Phonebook inside Skype.

The Facebook News Feed option will display a digest of activity nearly identical to what you would see if you were on Facebook, except that below each status update there are two noticeable Skype buttons: SMS or Call. The buttons appear if Facebook friends have included their phone number in their Facebook profile.

If the friend is a mutual connection on Skype, you’ll also have the option to initiate a free Skype call. And, if the Facebook friend is not already a Skype connection, but both of you are on Skype at the same time, the same free Skype call option is visible and an additional plus button will show up so you can add the Facebook friend as a Skype contact.

Skype’s News Feed integrations are great for initiating spontaneous contact around real-time updates, but you can also toggle over to the Facebook Phonebook section — a.k.a your Facebook contact list — should you want a more direct way to search for and reach specific friends.

These features are significant, but Skype’s latest 5.0 release includes way more than Facebook — there’s improved 10-way group video calling, much enhanced contact lists, more emphasis on profiles and a completely retooled user experience.

Video calling, for instance, now includes a “dynamic view” option that automatically positions the person speaking in the larger video window. In addition, Skype promises improved (and still free) 10-way group video calling, and the company has released an automatic recovery feature that will get disconnected audio and video chatters back up and running in seconds.

Contact lists got a face lift with the prominent inclusion of photos, and members will be now nudged to add a photo to their profile. Profile photos will factor into the search experience, which should make it easier for members to better find and add their friends to Skype.

Ultimately, these big changes point to Skype’s designs to be more than a secondary utility, and instead the primary connector between friends, family and our social contacts. Unfortunately, we Mac users will have to wait patiently for these features to make their way to us. Skype makes no promises on timing, but does tell Mashable that a similar Mac version is coming soon.

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