Skype Deepens Facebook Integration With Chat, Contacts

Skype has extended its integration with Facebook, allowing users to send instant messages directly from the VOIP app to Facebook Chat users. Meanwhile, Microsoft's bid to buy Skype gets closer to reality.

Skype, the world's leading voice over IP service in the process of being acquired by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) for $8.5 billion, has expanded its integration with Facebook.

Skype 5.5 Beta version for Windows will now let users send instant messages to their Facebook Chat friends directly from Skype.

Skype users will be able to check the new Facebook contacts tab within Skype to see when a Facebook friend they want to chat with is online and can then click to start an instant messaging conversation.

This is a big deal because millions of people use Facebook's Chat application daily and the integration will keep users from having to leave Skype to chat in Facebook.

Users may also tap into the Facebook News Feed in Skype to "like" a friend's status or comment on it, also without having to redirect to Facebook.

These features arguably should have been available when Skype and Facebook struck their initial deal last October, when Skype began infusing Facebook's News Feed and Phonebook into its platform.

Users sign in through Facebook Connect, to access the Facebook tab to make free calls from Skype to Facebook friends who are also Skype users.

Skype users who access their Facebook accounts from the VOIP application will embrace and use this new IM and contacts functionality with gusto.

Facebook, Skype and Microsoft form a cozy troika, with Facebook serving as the meat in the social sandwich.

As already mentioned, Facebook enjoys increasingly tighter integration on the VOIP platform. Microsoft surfaces Facebook profile info and Like buttons via its Bing search engine, which also provides the external search for Facebook.

Less clear is how the Skype-Facebook work evolves once Skype is under the auspices of Microsoft. The software giant plans to spread the Skype technology across its myriad collaboration software products. Ideally, Skype can become the unified communications software hub for Microsoft.

Skype's VOIP and Facebook's social contacts can provide a powerful one-two punch for Microsoft consumer and business customers alike.