When you call for the first time, you are provided with a wizard interface to guide you through the steps of this one-time setup. Click on Set Up to continue.
Setting up a video call for the first time
Next, you will be prompted to save a small (482 KB) plug-in. Save it to your hard drive and run it.
Save the video call plug-in to be run later
This file is a web-installer, meaning that after running it, the software relevant for your system will be downloaded and installed. This takes less than 5 minutes to complete on a moderate 256 kbps internet connection.
FB video call plug-in gets installed
Once the installation is complete, the call is made automatically. Your friend is then prompted to install the same plug-in. After he \ she finishes installing the plug-in, the call gets connected.
Your friend is prompted to install the same plug-in
While I was expecting a smooth ride because it is powered by the experienced Skype, all did not go as well and I did hit a few roadblocks before finally getting connected. One of the main irritating problems was that I received the following error message and was prompted multiple times to download and re-install the same plug-in.
Reinstalling the plug-in was the only available solution
Then another error message popped up, stating that "The software that powers video calling is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later." Was this a result of some kind of an outage faced by FB due to an overwhelming response to this feature? I am not really sure.
I could not make heads or tails of this one
It finally started working and once it works, you are going to get hooked to it. You can view your friend in a large video window, while a smaller thumbnail of your video feed can be seen near a corner of this window. This is similar in appearance to the Skype video chat window. The overall quality is satisfactory, though nowhere near to the Skype experience I was expecting because it is based on the same software. Audio quality is as good as on Skype (which means it is very good), but there is room for improvement in the video quality department.
Once it starts, you will not stop using it
Besides the problems encountered before I could get it started, I did experience intermittent crashes in the application. This makes me feel that the feature is still in the beta stage and was rushed off hastily to combat the growing popularity of Google+ Hangout. Also missing, is the knockout video conferencing feature present in Hangout, but that may soon be added to this service. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction for the social networking giant, which is facing some real competition for the first time in quite some time. With news that you may soon be able to place phone calls via Facebook reaffirms my belief that the online social networking scene is going to see a host of new features. While the companies may lose, it is the users who will always end up being the winners.