Ghost of Google+ Haunts Facebook-Skype Event

Does Google+ make Facebook nervous? It seems that way.

A distinct feeling of nervous energy — perhaps it’s just me after getting pulled over by a cop on my way to Facebook — pervaded the press event this morning, which announced new group chat features and one-on-one video calling with Skype. Danny did a live blog of the event.

We’ll have a “hands on” discussion of the functionality later. But from the screens and the demo video chat on Facebook looks great and very easy to use.

Facebook Video Chat May Impact Skype Usage

Its simplicity was emphasized repeatedly by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and by Skype CEO Tony Bates who was on hand at the event. In fact it seems so elegant and simple that I think it will negatively impact conventional PC-based Skype usage. (However comScore just tweeted that “Facebook and Skype had an overlapping U.S. audience of 25 MM UVs in May.”)

Skype probably couldn’t not do this deal. And Bates said that premium (paid) Skype options will probably come to Facebook; Zuckerberg seemed more uncertain (“We’ll have to see”). If it wasn’t Skype it would have been someone else or an acquisition.

Explaining the rationale behind the deal, Bates said it increases Skype’s reach, which it does. Zuckerberg also said that video calling would come to mobile devices in the future.

Video Chat Sure to Be a Hit

If you’re a regular consumer, there are now fewer reasons to use the branded Skype service. Although, depending on your specific needs, there are still a number of reasons to use Skype after today: Skype out, mobile, conference calling, presentations and group video chat.

Clearly one-on-one video chat on Facebook will be a hit. And it steals some of the thunder of Hangout, the well-reviewed group chat feature on Google+. Zuckerberg implied that group video chat would be coming soon but for now that capability still differentiates Hangout from Facebook video chat.

Google+ the Subtext

In general what was striking to me was how Google’s new social network seemed to be in the background or the subtext at this event. Zuckerberg was asked directly about it in the Q&A portion of the morning and basically he declined to discuss Google+. And while it’s clear that the Facebook-Skype deal was in the works for many months, before Google+ launched, this event seemed hastily put together almost as a response or to blunt the positive response to Hangout and Google+.

Zuckerberg and company raced through the discussion of the several new features launching at a breakneck pace. It was strange how accelerated the presentation felt.

We Are the Graph

Overall Zuckerberg said that Facebook would work with developers and entrepreneurs who could build on top of its graph rather than Facebook “trying to do everything” itself — as Google is impliedly trying to do. He also seemed to be saying that while there was room for social media outside the Facebook solar system, Facebook was like Jupiter to everyone else’s Mercury or Mars (the two smallest planets).

Indeed the “meta-communication” at the event was: “We are the social infrastructure” of the internet. Google is not.

Postscript: Also see our other story, Facebook Announces Video Calling, Group Chat & Redesigned Chat.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Google+ | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://stevegarfield.com Steve Garfield

    \Zuckerberg and company raced through the discussion of the several new features launching at a breakneck pace. It was strange how accelerated the presentation felt.\

    Exactly.

  • http://screenwerk.com Greg Sterling

    It was really weird.

  • B.K.

    I really don’t see why Facebook should be nervous. Yes, Google is big and there’s a lot of nerds hyping up anything they put out, however, we can’t forget that Google has been a miserable failure with anything to do with anything social recently. Google+ is a much stronger effort than anything Google has put out recently and it is actually nicely designed, but they’re still up against a veritable juggernaut in Facebook that has more advantages in the social game than Google will have for years. Facebook alerts are already on most peoples phones and mainstream society is already on Facebook daily. And don’t forget the commercial aspect to it either: Facebook is so inspiring towards businesses that people are even resorting to buying Fans on a bunch these sites. Nothing that Google has anytime will compel businesses to advertise their Google+ on their own TV or print ads. It will be hard for Google to find their way towards some of these heights that Facebook has reached for years, and by that time I bet Facebook will have moved onto newer and better features because they’ve hired off a ton of the best available talent: even more so than Google in my opinion. Stuff changes all of the time, and yes, the situation could change over time, but right now I really believe that Facebook seems unstoppable momentum-wise and Google really has to be much more nervous about Facebook than the opposite.

  • Ian Williams

    ^BK touches on something re: FB/G+.

    We work in the search bubble, full of techies and early adopters, and naturally we gravitate towards any new platform. But the success of any social platform is in convincing people outside that bubble to want in.

    So I would struggle to really assess if there is a ‘buzz’ around Google+ in the real world, any more than there was with Wave or Buzz.

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