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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.