Catching Up With Google+, Facebook to Debut Skype-Powered Video Chat

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ADOTAS – Called it! Sorta… When Skype was on the auction block a few months back I suggested Facebook could rule the bustling real-time message arena with Skype’s video chat technology in its back end. One day later, Microsoft bought the VoIP service, but since Facebook and Microsoft are best pals these days, I figured it was a matter of time before the social network added Skype-powered video chat to Messages.

TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington, the go-to guy for leaking product details to build buzz before a launch, reports that the “awesome” announcement Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking about since the introduction of Google’s latest stab at a social network (one that actually might be successful!) revolves around the introduction of video chat, filling out the missing component of Messages’ social hub.

While some tech media soothsayers foretold the unveiling of an iPad or a photo-sharing app (which could still come to pass tomorrow), Facebook pretty much gave the game away through the event invitation, which features a chat icon with a person’s silhouette.

Incorporating video chat is more important than ever — arguably the two advantages Google+ has over Facebook are its Circles friend-arranging feature (much more intuitive and easier to use than Facebook’s group function) and the Hangout group video chat functionality.

It’s amazing the way symbiosis appears in the face of a common enemy: Facebook is Microsoft’s last hope in making a dent in Google’s search dominance through integration of its social data into the Bing search engine and now Microsoft wields the weapon Facebook needs to fend off Google’s rival social network.

(In another interesting correlation, Bing inked a search venture with Chinese search giant Baidu to get in on the mainland search action that Google is having trouble grasping. Facebook is also teaming up with Baidu to build its mainland social offering. As Digital Due Diligence recently noted, the Chinese search market is a rough part of town.)

Facebook and Skype have been integrating technology for a while now, and it seems Messages’ video chat feature will have a desktop component, allowing users to chat with Facebook friends without being the site. Of course, I can chat with my Facebook friends and send messages via my social browser Rockmelt without having to go to the site. I wonder if any of the $30 million in funding the company just scored will go toward integrating video into the chat function.

It’s a sweet deal for Facebook as long as Microsoft doesn’t break Skype first — reports of the network going down seem to be more frequent since the acquisition. More important, Facebook is quickly closing the gap between its offering and Google+ — as soon as Facebook introduces a better friend-arranging tool (something that the social network has stumbled over before), the rival social services will be judged on their merits.

And marketers can’t ignore, there’s no real ad product for Google+. A level playing field might be a bitch for Google.

On a Google+ side note, some media people have been having Buzz flashbacks as Social SVP Vic Gundrota admitted that the social network isn’t quite ready for prime time, but it was pretty smart to soft launch Google+ in the summer right before a holiday. Across most of the United States, it’s too hot and sunny to think about work and minds were already turned off prior to a three-day Independence weekend — what better way to kill some time than trying out this new Google toy?

Of course, Google has “run out of invites” because they were swamped with an “unanticipated amount” of requests — limit the supply and demand driven by curiosity will amass. However, I’ve seen some Tweets suggesting Google+ has been a bit hectic to operate… Perhaps Google jumped the gun again.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Not sure “catching up” is the right way to characterize it, since Google+ isn’t available to anyone but tech journalists, it seems.

    What Facebook plans to announce, presumably, will be available to everyone.

  2. A couple of points:

    The Microsoft acquisition of Skype has not yet closed. Still some due diligence and probably EU regulatory approval required (FTC has passed on doing anything).

    For both business and legal liability reasons, Skype remains its own independent entity until the acquisition closes; Microsoft cannot be involved in any Skype business activity — other than to collect due diligence information to support the basis of the acquistion. The outages had nothing to do with the acquisition.

    This announcement today complements what was announced with the release of Skype 5_5 beta for Windows last week where the Skype client provides access to FaceBook chat sessions.

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