Facebook’s boss Mark Zuckerberg appeared today before the crowd of journalists summoned at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters to reveal new Facebook features designed to tackle the Google+ threat. He began by saying that the industry is quickly approaching an inflexion point where focus will be on apps rather than the number of registered users. Facebook has over 750 million users, he said. Facebook is hoping to zoom past the one billion mark in the near future, he said, predicting that the social networking industry at large will soon measure its user base in billions.

Social today is about sharing. It’s about what people do on social networks, what content they share and so forth. Sharing on Facebook is growing at an exponential rate, said the executive who famously had the “I’m CEO, bitch” tagline printed on his business card in the early days. Today, an average Facebook user is sharing twice as much than the previous year and in 2012 will share double the items shared today. “We’re at the elbow of the curve,” Zuck said. For example, people share four billion things on aggregate each day on Facebook. This figure excludes direct interactions between users, such as instant messages.

He then took this huge jab at Google:

We just have this belief at Facebook validated by the success of Facebook, entrepreneurs who focus on one thing do better.

Zuckerberg predicted proliferation of apps which are “the biggest driver for us”. Mobile and the ability to segment stuff into groups are the #2 and #3 things for the company, respectively, he said.

The CEO then proceeded to unveil an improved Groups feature, a redesigned chat and an all-new video calling via Skype. More about that plus a nice promo clip showing off Skype video calling right below the fold. Oh, and check out a MacBook that Facebook’s engineer used on stage to demo the new features. I mean, purple?

More than half of Facebook users love the Groups feature, but Facebook has lacked thus far the ability to easily create and dismiss groups, which has been one of the differentiating Google+ features. Now you can quickly create ad hoc groups simply by choosing the Add Friends to Chat option in the chat tab. If they are online, they’ll see messages immediately. If not, they will receive chat transcripts when they get online. The chat feature has been rethought with a new sidebar that lists the folks you message most. It adjusts with the size of your browser window and automatically appears when the window is wide enough. Zuckerberg remarked that the Facebook cloud processes over a billion instant messages each day.

Moving on to the big thing: Skype integration.

If an on-stage demo is anything to go by, this feature is really simple and should be accessible to your parents and the technically illiterate people. You just click the Call button either on top of the Chat tab or a profile page. Up pops a dialogue asking your friend to install a tiny Skype plugin which takes “ten seconds to download” and boom – you’re on a Skype call inside Facebook. “Your least technical friend can do it in a click”, Zuck said. To get started with Skype video calling on Facebook, go here.

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Skype CEO Tony Bates then joined Zuck on stage. He boasted some 300 million minutes of videos Skype processes each month. Half of Skpe’s traffic at peak times is video calling traffic, he noted. Bates refused to share the financial specifics of the deal his company cut with Facebook and hinted at a possibility of upselling Facebook users in the future to paid calling plans.

Asked by an audience member how deep this Skype integration was, Zuck replied that it’s a one-click process on a social network that has all your friend, which requires no separate account, local software installs or screen names. Another journalist asked Zuck to comment on Google+, but the youngster dodged the question and instead talked about the great features of Facebook, eventually adding that “as far as the Google stuff goes”, the next five years are going to be about building apps that scale to billions of people.

“There are going to be a lot of apps from companies like Netflix taking advantage of social stuff”, he explained. It’s going to be a hybrid of both those places and the stuff that already exists. People will be building social networks of their own, Zuck remarked. “Every app is going to be social. If we don’t do it [the platform], someone else will”, he said.

And that’s it, folks… More information is available at the official Facebook blog.

So, no native Facebook app for iPad… No Skype integration with the existing iOS app… Heck, not even an HTML5-based app store was unveiled which was supposed to take a chunk of the gaming revenues on the iOS platform! Hopefully all those new features will be revealed next time or in the coming days or weeks. If anything, it is clear to us that Facebook’s hastily organized presser is meant to take some steam from Google+ and re-focus attention of the public on Facebook.

Cross-posted on 9to5Google.com

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