Video Chat? Really? That’s the Best your Team Could Come up With, Mark?

Updated July 6, 2011

Doc Sheldon

Mark Zuckerberg made his big announcement today, about Facebook’s new video chat feature.


Exciting? NOT!

That’s all, folks. Show’s over! Nothing to see here.

All in all, I think most folks were thoroughly underwhelmed. Frankly, I found the first part of his presentation more interesting, where he explained some of the thought process that goes into an analysis, to decide where R&D efforts should be focused. That was nothing new either, but at least it didn’t make me sleepy.

Partnering with Skype doesn’t rock anyone’s world, I don’t think, and frankly, even if FB had developed their own video chat platform, they’d still be several years behind the curve.

Facebook has grown its membership base, it’s true. Mark even spoke wishfully of perhaps reaching a billion users some day. But let’s face it, their user base grew for a few very basic reasons:

  • No 140 character limit on posts;
  • A more controlled atmosphere than MySpace provided;
  • An amplified ability to share images and videos via embedding;
  • A lot of apps for folks like the would-be farmers that prefer virtual dirt.

Certainly, Facebook has other features that make it attractive to one group or another, but the foregoing seem to me to be the principle reasons for their expansion.

We could also go into some of their negative aspects, too, such as repetitive habitual disregard for personal security, a totally dysfunctional search capability (search dysfunction?) and a number of heavy-handed policies that seem to strike hardest at power-users.

To be fair, Mark spoke at some length today about having recognized the need to create a more functional search capability.

But come on, Mark! Is Video Chat really the best your team could come up with? Is that “cutting-edge” stuff by Facebook standards? I would have expected something a little more effective after a six-month R&D effort. Flying cars, maybe (they needn’t fly themselves… the folks at Google can handle that part for you).

I’ve been spending a LOT of my time at Google+ since the beta started, and honestly didn’t see it as an immediate thread to Facebook’s continued prosperity. Long term, perhaps, but not likely to precipitate a mass migration from FB to G+.

But I apparently underestimated your ability to shoot yourself in the foot, big guy.


  1. Dean Cruddace says:

    We both watched (along with 50k+ others) a slow start to a presentation with some interesting “look at me stats” culminating in the announcement of the “Awes*me” (edited for obvious reasons).

    Underwhelmed much?

    If this announcement had not coincided with G+ early adopters already getting their hands dirty in the Google+ equivalent of the “Hangout” which offers the same capabilities we would have clapped our hands at innovation.

    At first I thought it was a reactive innovation to counter the Hangout that Google+ is offering, but then again Mark (Zuckerberg) alluded to being in the pipes for 6 months or so. With that in mind was it a simple race to release Hangout from Google+ (Emerald Sea) or was it Facebook getting wind of that innovation and an attempt to stem the flow out of the door by announcing this partnership with Skype?

    Either way I think both powerhouses are in a kind of stalemate again. One thing we know for sure is that FB blocking the user export is not going to go down well.

    Awes*me? Not really. Same food, different package.

  2. I have no doubt that all the players strive to figure out what the others might be planning, and try to beat them to the punch with something sooner, better or at least, shinier. Facebook certainly had to be working on their collaboration with Skype for a while, just as Google had to spend a lot of engineering (and marketing) time putting together G+. I imagine they both (and probably Twitter, too) have other things in the pipeline, as well.

    Of course, a hint that a competitor is getting ready to release something could prompt the other to look at releasing earlier than originally planned. And that may well be the case with Facebook’s somewhat fizzled “awesome” announcement. Perhaps this video chat was simply one aspect of a planned facelift, but they decided it was the only portion that was sufficiently viable to release early. We may never know. If that’s the case, certainly a lot of impact would have been lost, had Mark decided to hold off even another couple of weeks, as many would have said he just slapped it together after G+ launched.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Dino! (and thanks a LOT for the scare, over on G+) 😉