Facebook Adds Video Calling, Group Chat - InformationWeek
Software // Social
04:47 PM
Connect Directly
[Dark Reading Crash Course] Finding & Fixing Application Security Vulnerabilitie
Sep 14, 2017
Hear from a top applications security expert as he discusses key practices for scanning and securi ...Read More>>

Facebook Adds Video Calling, Group Chat

The Skype-powered Video Calling service looks easy to use but only supports one-to-one conversation. Google+ competition looms large.

Top 15 Facebook Apps For Business
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 15 Facebook Apps For Business
Facebook wants to make it easier for its users to see each others' faces. The company, as expected, introduced integrated Video Calling, along with Group Chat and a new chat interface design.

Facebook Video Calling, powered by a compact Skype plug-in, allows users to launch a video chat session with one other person using only two clicks. Because the plug-in is downloaded on-demand, with a single permission request, users can initiate video calls and recipients can answer without pre-installing Skype's software.

This approach does away with a traditional barrier to the growth and adoption of software-based services, on both the Web and the desktop--the need to install and maintain software.

"The majority of users don't want to take the time to configure this stuff themselves," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the group of journalists who had come to Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to see what had been billed as the introduction of "something awesome."

Apple has taught the simplicity-of-installation lesson well, first with the iTunes App Store and more recently with its Mac App Store, and the rest of the industry is running with the idea. Google has been promoting automatic updates for its Chrome browser and its cloud-based applications have reinforced the notion that software manages itself, with minimal intervention from the user.

"We're going to see more, in general, of the Apple philosophy that it-just-works and you don't need to know why," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg in a phone interview. "Users care about functionality; they don't care about technology."

Facebook's new Group Chat capability adheres to that philosophy: It's simple and certain to be appreciated by Facebook users, who can now assemble in groups and chat among themselves.

Ease of use, however, only extends until you hit vendors' walls: Facebook's Video Calling service cannot connect to Google's or Apple's, a situation reminiscent of the balkanized world of instant messaging software.

During the press conference, Zuckerberg confronted the inevitable question about Google's recently launched Google+ social network. He was asked what he thought of the Google's multi-person video chat service Hangouts and responded in a manner that some have characterized as defensive.

"Today, we're doing one-on-one [video chat]," Zuckerberg said, as if to suggest multi-person chat may be released in the future. "I wouldn't rule anything out," he said about the possibility of multi-person video chat. "But I also wouldn't undersell the importance of what we have today. The vast majority of video chat is one-on-one chat. I just think that this is super-awesome."

What Zuckerberg didn't explain was that Skype offers multi-person video chat through its desktop software as a premium service, for $4.49 per month in the U.S.

"As far as the Google stuff goes, I'm not going to say a lot about Google, plus we've all only spent a little bit of time on the service," he added, concluding that the growing interest in social apps validates his view about social networks turning into social infrastructure.

In his preamble to the product introductions, Zuckerberg laid out his vision of the where social networking is headed. He asserted that the success of social networks over the next five years will be measured not by user growth but by the apps developed atop now mature social infrastructure. To put it another way, it's all about what's built on the platform, at least until Facebook goes public: Then the yardstick will be advertising revenue.

Zuckerberg's insistence that his company's success should be measured in a new way makes sense: Having reached 750 million users in seven years, Facebook can count about a third of the world's Internet users as account holders. Getting another 750 million isn't likely to happen as fast.

Gartenberg said Facebook's partnership with Skype shows that there's a lot more to social networking than updating your status and sharing pictures. "It shows the stakes are being raised," he said. "This really helps extend Skype as a social network in and of itself."

And by extension, it helps Microsoft, which is in the process of acquiring Skype.

At the 2011 InformationWeek 500 Conference, C-level executives from leading global companies will gather to discuss how their organizations are turbo-charging business execution and growth--how their accelerated enterprises manage cash more effectively, invest more wisely, delight customers more consistently, manage risk more profitably. The conference will feature a range of keynote, panel, and workshop sessions. St. Regis Monarch Beach, Calif., Sept. 11-13. Find out more and register.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll