Over 50,000 viewers from across the globe visited the Facebook site late tonight, making the live webcast from the company’s Palo Alto headquarters come to a crawl. The social networking giant was expected to talk about plans for a new in-browser video chat product, powered by Skype. That’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced — a multi-chat product with video calling.
“A few months ago, we started working with Skype to bring video calling to Facebook. We built it right into chat, so all your conversations start from the same place,” said the Facebook blog.
“In November, we launched new messages, which bring together chats, texts, emails and messages. Today, we are excited to introduce video calling and other improvements. The new chat design includes a sidebar that lists the people you message the most,” said the blog.
“We’re also launching a multi-person chat,” it said.
Incidentally, before the announcement, Facebook’s 30 million active users in India and Google fans were churning out thousands of 140-character tweets in anticipation. Facebook and Twitter were receiving 3,500 mentions per minute at the time of going to press, according to data from Twirus.com.
Facebook visitors can already use instant messages and import news feeds, comments and ‘Like’ from Skype.
Incidentally, on May 10 this year, Microsoft agreed to pay $8.5 billion to buy Skype. Known for unified communication (integration of real-time communication services such as chat, internet telephony and video conferencing) products, Microsoft is said to have plans to integrate Skype technology with its products.
With the Facebook-Skype video chat, there will be an intense battle for online users. On the one hand will be Google with its audio and video chat product Google+, Chrome browser, Google Docs and search offerings. On the other hand, Facebook will have a video chat with Skype, while Microsoft will have a social search offering (it partnered with Facebook for this last October), Office 365 to battle Google Docs, Bing search engine and unified communication products.
Amanjot Johal, a Sydney-based consultant, tweeted, “After using Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Apple Facetime, I can say that Google has the killer feature.” Others like Freida Paul updated their Facebook status saying, “It will be difficult to predict how many of Facebook’s 500 million (active) users will switch to Google+. Nevertheless, there are enough innovative ideas built into Google+ that Facebook has no choice but to respond.”
Social media companies in India have their take too. Rajiv Dingra, CEO, WATConsult, says: “Video was the only thing missing from Facebook's armour when it came to peer to peer interaction services.”
Facebook leads the social media networking global pack with nearly 750 million users (500 million are active), followed by LinkedIn (100 million), Twitter (75 million), Orkut (100 million, most of them in Brazil and India) and MySpace (30 million). Google's earlier attempts in the social networking space have met with feeble success.
If the buzz in the online world is to be believed, Google is expected to rename Picasa and Blogger as Google products in the next six weeks. The move, according to tech site Mashable, is part of an effort to unify the brand for the public launch of Google+. The search giant declined to comment on the report. Google, says Mashable, intends to rename Picasa “Google Photos” and Blogger “Google Blogs”. YouTube is unlikely to be branded.
Meanwhile, the Facebook team in Seattle is reportedly working on Project Spartan - code name for a new HTML5-based platform -- and aims to reach 100 million users in the mobile space. The platform is aimed at working on iPhone (and iPad).