Facebook Gets Facelift with Video Chat, Group Chat
Just a week after Google+ showed up Facebook, Facebook has fired back with Google+’s two hottest features. Facebook is now offering group chat and video chat, much like +Sparks and +Hangouts. Do I have an opinion? Oh yeah. Here’s what you need to know and what Facebook’s new lineup means for social networking everywhere, including the channel …
Facebook has endeavored to provide a simple click-and-go video chat interaction. All a user has to do to video chat is click an icon on the Facebook page, install a teeny java applet with no configuration needed, and start yammering. In addition to video chatting, users can now leverage group chat for kibitzing about whatever they want to. The “secret sauce” back-end of Facebook’s new video chat is Skype, and that’s an interesting collaboration all by itself, especially since Microsoft will soon own Skype, and it has a nice chunk of cash invested in Facebook stock.
But that’s it, really. There’s no group video chat akin to +Hangouts and there’s no specifically filtered group content-sharing a la +Sparks. Still, Facebook now offers the basic features. According to live blogs of the news, Zuckerberg skirted around the issue that there was no group-video chat. Zuckerberg said he wouldn’t “rule anything out” but contested most video-chatting is typically a one-to-one thing.
So what does this mean for Facebook, Google+ and more importantly, the channel? It’s actually not that big a deal, in my humble opinion. Facebook users get the added bonus of video chat, so if an SMB or, heck, even an enterprise, is using Facebook for collaboration, it now has a mini communication stack to work with. Facebook also upgraded its GUI showing active users, making it more similar to presence features, and when you couple that with the group chat and video, you’ve got yourself a poor man’s version of unified communications. Hooray. I’m not sure how practical this is, but I would imagine for companies that allow the use of Facebook it certainly couldn’t hurt productivity, right?
For Google, it merely means the company has hit the nail on the head with Google+, and it means it still has a technical leg-up in the race with group video. But it also means there’s some fear at Facebook, and whether Facebook video chat was in the works before Google+ or not doesn’t matter. Google+ beat Facebook to it. With the biggest name in search going after Zuckerberg’s bread and butter, Facebook is more seriously considering its momentum and where it should go. Competition is always good.
But, in my opinion, calling your friends on the phone to hang out in person is better.