In case you have been under a rock, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and Tony Bates, CEO of Skype have just made a live announcement about new chat and video chat features within Facebook.
The first announcement was about the Open Computer Project, which has been underpinned by a need for better infrastructure to deliver service to Facebook users – servers and data centres. As this is not the core interest of the readers here, we’ll gloss over it!
The next announcement was the one everyone has been expecting following Google+ opening its field trial doors last week – video chat within Facebook. G+ has Hangouts and some of us are addicted, and very excited about the potential for our business clients, as well as on a wider social level for consumers. What was Facebook going to announce to compete with this?
I have to admit to being disappointed. My initial feeling is that this announcement has been rushed out because of the Google+ launch.
It (or someone) has missed the fact that G+ is a field trial and certainly does not seem to have taken any account of the fact that hundreds of thousands of users are clamouring for, and not getting, G+ invites. Google is not relenting in a hurry and just letting people in in droves; the product development forums make it crystal clear that Google is trying extremely hard in this, its third attempt, to get social right this time. New users are being let into the trial in trickles, not floods. Ergo, IMHO, there is no immediate threat to Facebook’s userbase right now, and this early announcement may prove an undoing over time.
G+ has launched with a slick mobile app for Android, and also a mobile browser interface which is intuitive and easy to use. Facebook has launched video chat and chat enhancements without any mobile solution. I think implying that this has not been done yet because FB wants to get the desktop/browser version working first was the first real indication of the hurry to get this announcement out. particularly when later on in the presentation, Zuckerberg clearly states that the three biggest trends that drive FB activity are 1) apps 2) mobile and 3) groups.
If that is the case, and FB needs user activity to grow its business, then surely you would focus on providing a mobile app from the word go for this new partnership with Skype? After all, Skype have had a mobile app for years and 50% of Skype’s own traffic each month – a staggering 300million minutes – is video chat. Adding over half a billion potential users of this video chat facility would imply to me that a mobile app would be essential in light of the massive growth of mobile internet access. (And might help pay for those new data centres Facebook are building!)
Seeing how the clunky chat has been improved (um, not much at first glance!) makes G+ Hangouts look even more impressive. And Zuckerberg’s comments when asked what he thought about Google + Hangouts by Ben Parr of Mashable gave an even greater impression that this has been rushed out. Focus on the fact that 1 on 1 video chat is going to be the biggest use. Hmm, no, I don’t believe so. The killer app is group video chat, and the facility to do precisely that has been included in Google+ from the outset, whereas FB are planning to work on it over the coming months.
Part 2 of our impressions about this and its effect on businesses using Facebook to follow shortly.