While Google has had this feature for quite some time, but only recently Facebook has unveiled its video calling feature, that enables friends on Facebook to video chat with each other right from within the browser, without the need for any external app. Google also previously launched its Google+ Hangouts feature, which supports multi-user video conferencing, and has been much praised. However, the fact remains that Google+ is new to the block, and is still invite only, and has a fraction of the number of users that Facebook has.
Facebook video calling can be activated by downloading a plugin provided by Facebook. It is available for all popular web browsers and platforms – Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
However, people who are using the developer preview of Mac OS X Lion have reported that Facebook video calling is not working on their systems. The reason behind this is that Facebook uses authentication by User-Agent and blocks any unrecognized user agent value from accessing the video calling feature, probably for security reasons. The user agent is a value passed in http headers that identify the client’s browser and operating system details to the server. Luckily, there is a work-around for this authentication check.
All you need to do is modify the user agent value to something that is accepted by Facebook for video calling. Below, we have detailed the methods to achieve this for different browsers.
- In Safari’s preferences, go to the advanced tab.
- Enable the ‘developer’ menu by ticking the appropriate checkbox.
- In the ‘Develop’ menu, navigate to the ‘User Agent’ option.
- Choose one of these: Safari 5.1 (Mac), 5.0.1 (Mac), and Firefox 4.0.1 (Mac).
In Firefox, this process is simple. You can download the User Agent Switcher add-on for Firefox, which allows you to modify your user agent. Choose one of the user agents mentioned above for Safari.
To change user agent in Chrome, use the following command (execute it in Terminal.app when Chrome is not running):
open /Applications/Google\ Chrome.app –args -user-agent=”Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_8; en-us) AppleWebKit/525.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.2.1 Safari/525.19″
Alternatively, you can use the following plugin for Chrome, which is very similar to the Firefox plugin.
Once you have modified the user-agent you may also need to enable Facebook Video Calling for the first time. To do this simply navigate to http://facebook.com/videocalling and click get started.