Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Facebook Fights Back?

Hot on the heels of the new Google+ "hangout" video chat release, Facebook has just announced that it will be rolling out a new group chat feature and video chat. According to this post on PCMAG.com, "Facebook's "something awesome" event on Wednesday included the introduction of video calling with Skype, group chat, and a redesign for Facebook chat."

Facebook's video chat will use Skype to connect users, which downloads within your browser. According to Mashable, "The revamped chat system now includes a sidebar with “the people you message most.” It automatically appears when your browser is big enough. and the group chat feature will allow those using the new google groups to start spontaneous group chat sessions.

Given the timing of the release, one can't help but think that the two technology giants are vying for attention in the social media world. (Incidently, when asked about Google+, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said "he viewed it as "validation" that Facebook is doing something right.")

Personally, I wonder if both Google and Facebook are going to be facing a branding problem when expanding into other territories.

Consider this post in Business Insider which plays with the idea of "Facebook Spreadsheets." We've come to trust Google to be a place to email and often share documents with work colleagues, and yes even gchat, but will we see it as a social media hub? As Charlie O'Donnell writes on Business Insider "Our friends aren't there--just a random bunch of early adopters who for some reason want to share their photos with me even thought I don't know them."

Similarly, could you see having a video conference call through Facebook Skype? Probably not. Most people still consider it a place to share family photos or private plans with friends, and as Facebook continues to add more features and blur privacy lines they may risk alienating their 750-Million-User fanbase.

Regardless of the outcome, it is certainly interesting to watch these two companies continue to innovate in the social space.

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Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at mleblanc@iirusa.com.

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