This Is Facebook’s “Awesome” News: Group Chat & 1-to-1 Video Calling

Today, Facebook has promised us something “awesome.” The press has assembled. I’m here with them, and the live blogging will soon pour forth from my finger tips!

The event is supposed to start at 10am Pacific, but I think it will be a bit late. When it starts, you can tune-in through the live stream (or so I’m told) here.

Stay tuned.

NOTE: Below is our live blogging. For our more structured coverage, see our follow up stories:

And we’re off here. Mark Zuckerberg is telling us launching season 2011 is upon us. He was walking around the block today, his older neighbor said “I heard you were launching something … I hope it’s video chat.”

Trend time first, he said. Social networking is at an inflection point. Until now, narrative has been all about connecting people.

Until the last couple of years, most poeple had open questions on if social networking was going to be ubiquitous. “I think that chapter is more or less done at this point.” Sure Facebook and social networks aren’t everywhere, but there’s a clear arc that the world believes it is going to be everywhere.

Metric to watch has been about user growth [hmm, is this a hint that hey, user growth doesn't matter so much as Facebook recently had its first, though very small, reversal].

Not going to be about wiring up the world but what kind of cool stuff and social apps you can build now that you have the social infrastructure in place.

Just as companies decided hey we need to build web sites, now any company is going to be thinking need to build social app. Any industry. Search, he mentions specificially. Anyone know a search company that recently decided it needs to be social?

If last five years have been about active user growth, says Facebook said first company to talk about active versus registered. Hopefully we’ll get to a billion at some point, he said. At some point you don’t measure the value the internet is providing not by number using it but the value peoplet get, how much it is driving the economy.

A more powerful trend than sign-ups is how much people are sharing stuff. If you plotted what people are sharing, it’s growing exponentially. Right now about twice than a year ago.

Now lesson in exponential growth. If you took paper and folded it 50 times, how tall? Goes to the moon and back and more. See, behold the power of exponential growth! Mark mentions that of course you could never actually do this.

But back to Facebook. It’s an internet phenomenon. Hey, Zuckerberg law?

Seriously, now he’s showing a chart and talking about Moore’s law. You know, circuits on transitors double every 18 months and all that.

We see our growth and the growth of the sharing ecosystem going at the same rate. And so you have to think ahead of how to support all that demand.

But on to today’s news. Yes, Group Chat is one, New Design and Video Calling.

On group chat, had lots of request and so supporting it.

It’s been hard to see who is online at Facebook. If can make it to have Facebook and a buddy list, many people will want this. We think this is going to be a meaningful thing. That’s the design part.

Now video calling. Yes, with Skype, but both parties won’t need to download the same software.

Says he thinks Facebook will stay years ahead of others because it’s focused, not trying to do a million things. You know, not trying to do search, for example, while some search company that won’t be named gets distracted doing those million things. Not that he said that, but you know.

Demo time.

OK new person up, didn’t catch name, sorry. Says 50% of people are using groups. With one click, if you’re friends are online, they’ll get messages immediately and can join the group chat feature. That rolls out today. And that’s it for group chat.

New design takes into account your browser size. If wide enough, will show a sidebar of your buddy list.

Phillip, an engineer he calls himself from Facebook’s Seattle office, sorry, no last name, talking video calling. He’s going to show us how to make a video call.

He’s showing a text chat with Jerry, and there’s a video icon in the chat. Click on that, and the call is made between the two machines. And now he’s talking. Just like if you were to use, say, Google Talk launched back in 2005?

Where’s the pentabox? Where’s the 10 channel stream. Where’s the Facebook version of Google+ Hangout? Where, Phil, where? What’s the plan!

That’s apparently the plan. It rolls out today, more info here. But Tony Bates, the CEO of Skype is now up to talk. Shared vision, no finer social platform. Looks forward to Skype coming out to everyone on the Facebook platform.

Questions.

So what do you think about Google Hangouts?

Mark says nice things about Skype. Wouldn’t underestimate that the vast majority of video chat is one-to-one and is rolling out immediately. IE, you don’t have to wait for an invite for supposedly cool group video chat in Google+

Goes on. I’m not going to say a lot about Google. But in terms of the narrative of the next five years is about building apps, you’re going to see a lot of companies that haven’t traditionally looked at social start to build. Netflix for example wants to do social stuff well. I think you’re going to start seeing all these companies build on top of this.

I view a lot of this as validation of how the next five years are going to play out.

[Sidenote here. I think Mark's right on the advantage of looking ahead, rather than playing catch-up like Google. But wow, this whole instant press conference feels much more reactive and scared of Google than I thought it would be].

Greg Sterling from Search Engine Land asks if there’s a concern that some people will leave Skype and head to Facebook. No, think long term is beneficial.

More questions, sorry, didn’t catch, playing some catch-up here. Mark is saying Skype was way ahead with making calls with low bandwidth. Tony says this is like a mini-Skype client.

Any financial terms to reveal and what degree did Microsoft relationship help, with the Skype acquisition happening.

Mark seems to dodge, says looking to build out new features, some of Skype’s other premium products maybe will come. Sure, maybe group calling will come, he mentions almost as an aside.

Degree that Microsoft help? Well, maybe it gives Facebook a sense of stability. Skype wasn’t seen as stable before this?

Tony said day deal was announced, they came to see Mark, him and Steve Ballmer apparently (he said Steven, so I’m guessing here).

How about group and friend management in general?

Mark, something to keep in mind. Question is what trends play into that? One, proliferation of apps. Mobile helps, that you can share everywhere (kind of similar to how Google talked recently of people searching everywhere).

Looked at Groups, with the idea that everyone in a group knows the others. The majority of users don’t want to talk the time to organized them. A huge number of users won’t even add friends. Only if there are enough others they know. That’s one of the advantages of letting the network do the work for you.

And I’m lost here. People won’t friend each other, but then they do. Oh, stat — only about 5 percent use friend lists, it’s a power user feature he says. So take that Google Circles.

Wrapping up, apps biggest driver, mobile second and lists to organize much less.

And we’re done. So my wrap-up:

1) Wow, they really did seem to jump nervously to Google’s news with this instant press conference about a primary feature, 1-to-1 chat that’s nice but hardly groundbreaking.

2) Wow, they spent a lot of time trying to shift focus away from user growth figures, making you think that they don’t expect those to ramp up so much. And they might be right, but funny how all of a sudden, those numbers that we’ve had trotted out regularly now seem to be downplayed.

3) Wow, they they really roll out Google Chat six years later?

4) Interesting the downplay that most people want to do 1-to-1 chat. Maybe because group video chat hasn’t been that available? But fair point that today, people can start video chatting directly on Facebook, rather than hoping they get access to Google+ at some point for the multichat feature that perhaps in a week won’t seem that cool even to those raving about it now.

5) But then again, maybe group video chat will be the next great feature. And if so, Facebook clearly isn’t rolling that out soon.

6) Interesting the downplay of lists — and they might be right. While people rave about Google Circles and organizing, it’s still unclear how many are actually making use of that feature.

7) Wow again, all that time talking about being ahead in development, not distracted by a million things, all perhaps true but feeling overly defensive against Google.

And that’s all, folks! Official Facebook blog post with more info is here. Also see our follow up stories:

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Google+ | Live Blogging

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    Is there any discussion as to an increase in sharing but a narrowing of sources for shared content? Are individual blogs/sites getting shared at increased rate or are brands and major sites grabbing majority of traffic?

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