I admit I was a little thrilled that I could actually watch Mark Zuckerberg make the big announcement about video chat today, live on Facebook. While I was waiting for the presentation to begin, I couldn’t help but notice that 99% of the journalists in the room were men. What’s that about? Anyway, Zuckerberg announced a video calling feature in partnership with Skype as well as new group chat features and a new design for the Facebook dashboard. The dashboard will scale depending on the device and the browser you’re using. You can watch the announcement yourself at Facebook Live. Zuckerberg enters the frame at about the six minute mark.
The winners in Facebook’s deal to offer Skype’s video calling are young people, immigrants and, of course, the companies.For a generation of Facebook users who already spend hours, sending messages, sharing photos and playing Farmville games, it’s another application that will keep them there longer, says Sidneyeve Matrix, who teaches media studies at Queen’s University. “Facebook is the go-to place for users. We never have to leave Facebook now,” she said, adding the key is people will stay in the same browser for this new video calling feature, which will be available in the coming weeks.For the 20-somethings who text like crazy, Matrix says video conferencing brings something different. “It has an authentic intimacy for that generation,” she said. Because Canada has many immigrants, many people already use Skype to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. In other countries, Skype’s use is not as high, with some uncertain or confused about how video calling works. With one button on Facebook, people will be able to chat with a friend of Grandma, she said.
For now, the Skype-Facebook integration is relatively simple, compared to the features that Skype’s PC client offers. Facebook’s new video calling feature allows users to click on a video icon within Facebook’s chat window. If a user doesn’t have the Skype app already enabled, he or she can download it within 30 seconds and be up and running, executives said.
Facebook held a special media event on Wednesday to introduce “awesome” new Facebook features. It turns out the company unveiled improvements to Facebook Chat, including a new group chatting feature and, in partnership with Skype, the ability to make video calls. While the improvements are welcome—numerous other services such as AIM, iChat, Windows Live, and Yahoo have had similar features for some time—they are also far from the promised “awesome.”
Why Facebook’s new Skype-powered video chat feature shows Google has what it takes to build competitive social apps. And that Facebook may have a social rival in Google.
Zuckerberg talked about while the first five years of Facebook was all about active user growth, the next five years will be about “social apps” and building on the Facebook infrastructure through partnerships and applications designed by software developers for free or fee. “Social media should be measured not by the number of users but by the value it offers.” He also pointed out that the rate of content sharing on Facebook is experiencing profound growth. Four billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook everyday by its 750 million users.
Group chat, a feature Facebook launched a year ago, is “profoundly popular” among Facebook users. “More than half of our users are now also members of a group. If a member of the group is not present during a group chat, they have the option of reading the chat discussions later. After Zuckerberg finished his presentation, Tony Bates, CEO of Skype made a few remarks. Bates noted that 50% of all calls placed through Skype in the last year were video calls. A partnership between the world’s largest video calling provider and the world’s largest social network offers the best way to grow both the companies.
From my perspective, Google seems to be in tough against Facebook. When I told my hairdresser today about the Facebook’s new video chat feature, her response was “Great, I’m on Facebook anyway.” This response is likely to bew shared by many of Facebook’s 750 million users. These are hard numbers to beat.
Who do you think will win the video chat battle for the most users? Facebook or Google? Do you use video chat now or do you plan to in the future? Which one are you most likely to give a whirl?