Pipe’s Facebook file-transfer system is finally out of beta

Pipe, the Facebook(s fb) app that lets you transfer files in real-time to other users of the social network, will finally be available for all to use from Wednesday.

It’s been in invitation-only mode for a year, but Pipe CEO Simon Hossell told me the time has been put to good use: a secure locker-like feature has been added to take into account those who aren’t online to receive the file at the time of sending, and relay technology has been added in order to help the service bypass corporate firewalls.

But the finalized Pipe is now ready to roll. Here’s how it works:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43qfYb2ZD3k&w=560&h=315]

It’s really quite simple. You install the Pipe app in Facebook and drag-and-drop to send a file to a friend – if they’re not already using Pipe, they’ll receive an invitation to do so. Files get sent through peer-to-peer (P2P) connections, so nobody – including Facebook and Pipe itself – can snoop.

As mentioned above, if the recipient isn’t around at the time of sending, then the file can be stored for a while, to give them a chance to download it. The file will only be held for 5 days and it’s limited to a size of 100MB per contact (the file size limit for P2P transfers is a hefty 1GB) – in a sense, this is a more literal interpretation of the “dropbox” concept than Dropbox itself has turned out to be.

Not that Hossell sees what Pipe is doing as competition to Dropbox and email. “We’re not suggesting people will be abandoning other ways to send files,” he told me. “This is just such an easy way to send a file. You have access to everyone who’s close to you; you don’t even need to know their email address.”

So where will Pipe make money? Hossell said such ideas were still evolving, but one possibility would be a premium ability to allow files to be held in the locker for a matter of weeks rather than days, or for larger files to be sent through that facility.

The desktop version of Pipe comes first, although Hossell said an iOS version was nearly ready and Android may follow.

So will it fly? As Hossell pointed out to me, the last year has seen a lot of work go in to make sure Pipe works as advertised from the start. The app certainly looks set to exploit Facebook’s network effect, so perhaps everything really is now in place for Pipe to take off – if people want another way to send files, that is.