Users can initiate video calls with a single permission request, and recipients can answer without Skype’s software pre-loaded because the plug-in is downloaded on-demand.
“The majority of users don’t want to take the time to configure this stuff themselves,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday to journalists watching at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto and to more than 50,000 people watching online.
Zuckerberg boasted the application’s ease of use through the elimination of installing and maintaining software, but some Santa Barbara business owners questioned its practicality.
“The key is going to be that Facebook defines how Skype can be used; otherwise, it will be like the chat system for Facebook that no one uses for business at all,” he said. “The real question Facebook has in front of them, ‘Is there really a Facebook business system out there that can cater to businesses as effectively as they’ve catered to individuals?’”
Chris Herbert, a Santa Barbara app developer who founded Phone Halo, an app that locates where an item was lost through GPS technology, said video calling on Facebook would be useful if a business could seamlessly hold webinars for people who like its page. He said he’s more interested in showing slides and sharing desktops in a video conference rather than just seeing the other person.
“Having group calls and conference rooms linked by video would be useful,” Herbert said. “To do a live webinar on their page and send messages to their followers who can click to join would give businesses lots of opportunity. I think there is a few more steps to this than what was announced.”
Facebook showcased features including ‘‘ad hoc’’ group chats, a simplified chat interface and a side-docked buddy list, but didn’t give much else away regarding video calling. The sole focus was on one-on-one video calling, but Zuckerberg said he didn’t “rule anything out.”
“Today, we’re doing one-on-one (video calling),” Zuckerberg said. “I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I also wouldn’t undersell the importance of what we have today. The vast majority of video chat is one-on-one chat. I just think that this is super awesome.”
He added that Google+ is validation that this is the way the next five years will play out, that every app is social and that Facebook’s job is to stay focused on building the next.
Habra said the buzz is still about Google+, of which some say there will be a more organized and better managed system to control different types of contacts.
“There’s a belief their system will be more feature-filled than Facebook ever was,” he said. “If Facebook doesn’t implement it well right way, (video calling) won’t make a difference. Just because it may be integrated into pages won’t make it tremendous. If they use the video to create customer service, support and sales channels, then we’re on to something very revolutionary.”
But the ease of the Skype plug-in still intrigues Habra, especially if it’s used for business pages, adding that it will have an impact on both the business and consumer world — but the ball is in Facebook’s court.
“It’s in the pole position,” Habra said. “If Facebook can create unique features and partnerships, it will be difficult for anyone to catch up — unless someone does it better.”
But as Gmail continues to gain popularity, Habra believes that Google will leverage that asset with Google+.
Andy Seybold, a globally recognized mobile computing consultant and founder of Andrew Seybold Inc., said he’s more concerned about video calling’s impact on broadband usage rather than its overall effectiveness, and he said the announcement was interesting, not earth-shattering.
“We’re just going to get a more crowded wired and wireless Internet, but that is another issue,” Seybold said.
Either way, big changes for all social networks are on the horizon.
“Within the next six months, there will be interesting announcements on mobile and social platforms,” Herbert said.
Microsoft announced plans to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion earlier this year, but Zuckerberg said the acquisition would not change anything.
In his introduction to the new product features, Zuckerberg said that social networks aren’t being gauged by the number of users, which happens to be 750 million after Facebook’s seven years in operation, but by the amount of content people are sharing and how apps evolve the social infrastructure. He said people are sharing at twice the rate they were a year ago.
“It’s not about wiring up the world; it’s what kind of cool stuff will we be able to build and what social apps we can build now that have this wiring in place,” Zuckerberg said.