It's old news by now (gasp! 12 hours late to the party) that Facebook launched a new video calling feature today powered by Skype. There was a press conference and everything. Yes indeedy, now you can actually see and hear your friends right there within the blue and grey web confines of thefacebook.com. No need to Command+Tab over to Skype any longer, dear friends! I gave it a whirl and sure enough, it works. Jessica and I were chatting about nothing.. Then we were straight up looking at each other talking about... nothing.
Stephanie Robesky wrote a good rundown of some of the integration's pros and cons (and how Skype lost what I like to call the "War of Brand Attribution") and much has been written comparing Facebook video calling to Google+'s Hangout feaure. Some are even saying that this is somehow a response to Hangouts. That's just silly.
This has nothing to do with Google+ and everything to do with Faceboook wanting to provide a logical feature to nearly a billion users and with Skype essentially launching a new business model as the world's video calling wholesaler.
First, Facebook. It's not even worth it to dissect this. They enable 750m people to connect, play silly games with each other, look at pictures of one another, message, chat and now call each other. Oy vey. Of course this makes sense. It made sense 5 years ago. It makes more sense now. Spend more time in Facebook. Facebook wins.
Now, Skype. It's not just for laptops anymore.
Skype is in your phone, your TV, in your cable box and now it's in ur facebookz (which is also in your phone, your TV and for all I know a cable box somehere). Skype is becoming "video calling" the way Dolby means "surround sound." And with its integration into Microsoft one would expect to see Skype in all sorts of new places where people connect with a screen in between them... Xbox, Windows Phone, Outlook, Hotmail, Ford Sync... heck maybe even Yahoo! Mail given how that seems to be going. Skype is not a destination, or perhaps even a utility. It's becoming a core ingredient feature in dozens of disaggregated communications experiences.
But what does a disaggregated Skype experience look like? What does it mean to be the video calling "ingredient" for digital communications? Well, we're looking at it. Skype gives away in-network video calling for any given network of users. Make no mistake this is Facebook's feature, and Skype is powering it. This isn't "Skype in Facebook." It's "Facebook Video Calling." Skype doesn't require client integration and barely pushes on branding. (Thank goodness, however, the feature isn't called "video chat.") In exchange it gets exclusive position, a massive consumer education opportunity and the chance to become the one and only standard. Skype is in a 10 or 20 year effort to make 'video calling' the new 'calling.' From that position, one can only assume that Skype will be able to upsell its other clients and its various landline calling, group video services and enterprise subscriptions with considerably more ease.
Looking forward to more form the guys in Palo Alto.
(Note: yes, I realize that there is now technically infinately more Skype in Facebook, smart aleck.)