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Facebook delivers video-chat for the masses

Like a lot of other folks, on Wednesday I was playing with the newly launched video chat capability on Facebook.  Done in partnership with Skype, it brings video chat to the masses via the 750 million Facebook users out there.

First I chatted with Larry Lisser in San Francisco.  Not a good experience.  Grainy, laggy video, and bad audio synch problems.  If this is what Facebook video chat is all about, I thought to myself, it’s going to be a failure.  Next I talked with Dan York and his two year old daughter Cassie.  Great experience, and entertaining as all get out due to young Cassie’s antics on the screen.  Don’t tell Mrs. Saunders, but that little flirt was blowing me kisses the whole time!  And the video was wonderful and in synch.  Clearly the quality problems with Larry were simply network related.  And then I chatted with Jim Courtney, where we quickly started digging through the nitty gritty of the user experience.

What do I love about Facebook video chat?

  1. It’s a little thing, but the window pops up on screen directly below my center-mounted web cam.  It forces me to look into the camera when i’m chatting, which means that I’m meeting the other person’s eye, rather than looking at the screen.
  2. I can leave a video-mail message if the other person isn’t available.  Why isn’t this in the standard Skype application?
  3. It’s SUPER easy to set up and use. For many people, Skype has an intimidating UI with a lot of options.  Facebook video chat is pure simplicity. I could see my wife, or my brother-in-law, both of whom have resisted Skype until now, using this.

It’s probably not going to steal away today’s Skype user.  The experience isn’t as rich, quality isn’t as high, and you have to be logged into Facebook to receive calls.  Instead, Facebook video chat is a great compliment to Skype.

Bottom line: I don’t agree with Om Malik that this is a one-sided deal in Facebook’s favour.  Like Andy Abramson, I think this is a good thing for Skype and for Facebook.  Facebook gets a feature that will allow it to compete against Google +, and Skype gains an audience that they might not have otherwise had access to.  It won’t be long before there are a billion video chatters on the planet, all using Skype technology, and that’s what Skype’s management wants and needs.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Andrew Hansen July 8, 2011, 10:32 am

    One step forward, two steps back…

    I like Skype video in Fbook – however, upon playing with it I noticed a few things:

    1. The Java download is only 5MB shy of the full Skype standalone client, seems excessive for a 'plugin' but probably not a big deal to most broadband users.

    2. My experience on the Mac is different than your windows experience, the viewing widow opens up on the monitor you have your browser currently on, again not a big deal to move around.

    3. The new Facebook buddylist is crap. It shows no presence and therefore doesn't allow you to call anyone as you have no idea who is online. Astoundingly poor design, the FB forums are rife with very angry Fbookers worldwide who want the old one back.

    4. My elation over Video Mail was short lived, you can only call someone who is logged into FB, be it idle or online, and therefore you can only leave Video Mail for someone who is actually using FB. Seems to defeat the purpose of Video Mail (aside, this is the most compelling feature and is actually just a recycled FB feature that has made a return). Combined with the fact the new chat sidebar doesn't show you who is online, Video Calling and messaging on FB is rather useless IMHO..

  • jason @ voip July 21, 2011, 5:26 pm

    Is there nothing Facebook wouldn't do to achieve world domination?

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