Google may be working to win social networkers to its newly launched Google+ project, but Facebook is giving them one more reason to stick around. The social networking giant on Wednesday announced video chat via a partnership with Microsoft-owned Skype.
Facebook has been inching toward this reality for the past year. The Web 2.0 darling's messages team has made several moves that aim to make it easier for its members to have conversations with friends. A Facebook e-mail address is one example. A new function that pools chats, texts, e-mails and messages is another. But video chat was obviously missing from the leading social networking platform.
"The new chat design includes a sidebar that lists the people you message most. Now it's easier to find your friends and start a conversation," Philip Su, an engineer on Facebook's video calling team, wrote in the company blog. "The sidebar adjusts with the size of your browser window, and it automatically appears when the window is wide enough."
Google+ Hangouts Better?
As part of the Skype on Facebook launch, the company will roll out what Su said is one of the most demanded features: multi-person chat. Su offers an example of its utility: When your friends can't figure out what movie to see, you can just add them to a chat and decide together. To include more friends in your conversation, simply select Add Friends to Chat. A history of the video chat is available in messages.
This seems to directly counter a feature in Google+ called Hangouts. But Google still thinks it does video chat better. In its Google+ announcement, the search giant pointed out that today's online communications tools (read: instant messaging and video calling) don't put people at ease or encourage conversation because you can't ping everyone that's available and you are bound to interrupt someone's plans.
Hangouts works to overcome those annoyances by creating casual meetups with live multi-person video that lets people stop by when they are free. But with Skype, Facebook has a head start. Skype has about 170 million users in the mix.
"Video chat has been around for years now, but it's still not an everyday activity for most people. Sometimes it's too difficult to set up, or the friends you want to talk to are on different services," Su explained. "So a few months ago, we started working with Skype to bring video calling to Facebook. We built it right into chat, so all your conversations start from the same place. To call your friend, just click the video call button at the top of your chat window."
Skype could gain many more with the Facebook partnership. Facebook will roll out the video chat service to more than 750 million people in over 70 languages over the next few weeks.
"This is the natural evolution of tying together the communication technologies and making Facebook what it has become, which is a communications portal," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group. "Where Facebook has the advantage over Google is that both Facebook and Skype have much larger market share. Part of the issue with any tool is that you want to make sure there is someone at the other end. There are more people at the other end using a Skype-Facebook combination than with Google+, which hasn't even shipped yet."
Posted: 2011-08-03 @ 2:41am PT
Interesting, one person at a time, I hope...Lol!!!