In a bid to keep its uber-popular social network as up-to-date as Google's under-populated network, Facebook unveiled a new array of chat products today, including group chat and video calling powered by Skype. "Now, whenever you browse to a friend's profile, you'll see a new button nestled between the 'Message' and 'Poke' buttons that says 'Call,'" explains TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid. "Click that, the other user will see a popup asking if they want to accept a call, and you’ll be immediately connected (you'll need to install a small plugin the first time you use the service)." Here's what techies think of the new service after the video promo:
Is it better than Google? Swordfish Corp. founder Ben Metcalfe doesn't see why anyone would use the new Facebook service. "Is the Skype/Facebook integration nothing more than a defense against Google+ Hangouts?" he tweets. "I don't get why I'd otherwise use this over skype." But tech journalist Peter Bright is impressed by its performance. "Video chat in Facebook is a logical extension of the existing chat features, and the quality in a quick test beat the shit out of Google Poz," he tweets. Meanwhile, comedian Rob Delaney cracks wise: "Facebook Video Chat: Like ChatRoulette, but with real-life consequences within your relationships & social circles."
Good move! applauds Courtney Boyd Meyers at The Next Web:
We’ve tested out the Facebook Video Calling feature and it works very simply and with minimal fuss. The overall quality is not as good as a native Skype session, although Facebook has stated that the Video calling app is essentially a mini-Skype client. The window that launches when you begin a video session is a standalone application and can be moved, resized and made full-screen. You can also use the Video Calling application after closing Facebook, it really is its own app.
Striking similarities to Google's product, notes Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch:
Immediately, people will be comparing Facebook video calling to Google+ Hangouts, which is a group video chat capability within Google’s new social product. The lack of group video chat in the Facebook product might be seen as a weakness, but most video chats tend to be one-to-one. And Facebook can always add group video chats later.
It's about improving Facebook Groups, writes Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable:
More than 50% of users on Facebook are active in Facebook Groups, and Groups have an average of seven people, the company revealed Wednesday. The idea, then, is to make Group Chat more ad-hoc and accessible to all Facebook users.