Do you use Facebook's chat? Now you can also see the people you're talking to – for free. A new application was launched Wednesday on the social networking site, developed by the Israeli start-up company GixOO. The application, known as Rounds, enables video calls at a click – with no need to install any program.
The company was established by Dany Fishel, 31, and Ilan Leibovitch, 29, two years ago. The idea was born when Fishel and Leibovitch wanted to set up a kind of speed dating site, in which surfers would meet six other surfers within half an hour based on the program's profile matching.
"We were concerned that people would get bored during the call, so we added an activities screen," Fishel explains. "Now it is possible to speak and at the same time see a YouTube clip together, or play backgammon or other games. Over time, this idea caught on better than the dating idea, and we saw that everything we added, such as photos on Flicker, significantly increased call time."
What can be done with this application? Firstly, video calls can be made, with each speaker shown side by side with the other. An additional screen can be put between the two offering games, picture albums on Flicker or Facebook, and other activities.
Fishel and Leibovitch with Rounds (Photo: Shaul Golan)
"Today there is a screen offering the activities we choose, but in the future there'll be a browser so that websites can be visited together," Fishel says. "In fact, it was something we hardly considered that became a hit: The possibility of creating a screen shot while talking on video. We were surprised to see thousands of pictures created by surfers and posted on social networking sites."
Available to 500 million users
Three months ago the company developed the option of integrating external applications of other developers. These developers can offer them for free or sell them to Rounds users. The application itself is available for free, and profits are generated through cooperation with other applications and advertising, offering downloads, special effects to apply to video calls in real time, and virtual gifts, for example.
Facebook representatives have met the company to see how successful the application is, and if it succeeds, they may combine it with their chat services.
The company was self-financed by its founders at first, but later they succeeded in drawing investors from Startup Factory and Rhodium, owned by Daniel Recanati. Some of the Startup Factory investors also invested privately, and GixOO raised some $2 million.
About a year ago, Rounds became one of the first applications to be integrated into Google's Wave, which is to be discontinued, according to recent announcements. Today the application is used by some 250,000 surfers even though the company has not promoted the product extensively. But with its entry to Facebook, it will be available to 500 million users around the world.
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