The Skype/Facebook alliance – enough to keep Google+ at bay?
Facebook has announced the launch of a new in-browser video chat service, powered by Skype, a welcome addition for existing Facebook users. The current number of worldwide Facebook users has reached the 750 million mark –equivalent to one in nine of the world’s population - which will boost Skype’s user base from its present position of 150 million. Interestingly, this new video chat feature is expected to develop a strong mobile play, given that at least half of Facebook's users interact with the social network via mobile devices.
Facebook are known for capitalising on user’s ‘sign-up fatigue’ , where people are literally fed up with filling out forms and duplicating personal details about themselves online, and whilst their friends are already with Facebook, they have very little incentive to take their digital networking elsewhere. Thus many users are happy to wait for a feature to come to Facebook, rather than having to upload all of their information to a brand new service which they have no assurances that their friends will be on. Another example of this can be illustrated by the rumours in May that Facebook was in talks with Spotify to integrate their service into the website. According to reports at the time, users would be able to see a Spotify icon on the left side of the newsfeed allowing them to play songs, share them, and even listen to songs with their friends .
The Skype/Facebook announcement may go some way to explaining the (some might say perplexing) decision by Microsoft to snap Skype up for a massive $8.5 billion , and this move not only strengthens Facebook's own feature list but also strengthens the budding Facebook/Microsoft alliance against the common enemy – Google. At the end of June Google heralded a range of new social media products to rival those of Facebook, including 4 separate features called Circles, Sparks, Hangout and Huddle . The many publicised security breaches on Facebook in recent times involving identity theft and viral infections have left a huge number of users very concerned about the safety of their personal data and this is where Google – a far more mature and, arguably, trustworthy company – could have the upper hand.
If Google+ becomes a success (and early indications suggest that will be the case), social networking on the web could be transformed into a much more integrated experience, and will probably force Facebook and Twitter to move in a similar direction.