Skype, the popular VoIP and text chat service announced a new beta version of its Windows client today. This new version (5.5 beta) doesn’t just include a number of visual enhancements – though it doesn’t do away with the clunky all-in-one interface – but also a deeper integration with Facebook. Skype now lets you chat directly with your Facebook friends and features a dedicated tab for easy access to your Facebook contacts.
Skype, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, already offered its users access to their Facebook news feeds in earlier versions, but this new version takes this integration a step further by also making Skype a Facebook IM client and giving its users access to their Facebook contacts database. As GigaOM’s Kevin C. Tofel points out, “Facebook continues to become the de facto contact database for many,” so this integration makes keeping your Skype contacts up to date a lot easier.
It’s also worth noting that Microsoft has always had a cozy relationship with Facebook (including an early investment in the service and subsequent integration into Bing and other services). Adding more Facebook services to what has now become a Microsoft product also makes sense in this context, especially given that Google and Facebook have never quite seen eye to eye.