The fact that the Facebook announcement live stream had over 44,000 viewers is perhaps proof enough of the anticipation everyone had. To be honest, I was disappointed. Rumors of Facebook integrating Skype video chat – similar to the Google+ video Hangout – had been circulating ever since Zuck announced there would be “awesome” new updates coming up. I was hoping there would be something a bit more exciting than just video chat.
Funnily, the Facebook blog posted the announcements well before Zuckerberg had made them himself. Facebook introduced the video chat feature along with some changes to the chat design. The chat window now shows people you chat with the most so it is easier to choose them. this is much like Facebook’s earlier use of algorithms to decide whose updates users see in their main home page. The algorithm uses a number of elements to decide the people and pages you interact with the most to show a selective number of updates on your Facebook home stream. The chat will use similar ways to order the friends in your lists by priority according to your interactions. The new chat also allows you to organize group chats with as many of your friends as you like.
However, the question, as someone from the audience asked Zuck, is does the new Facebook video chat offer group video calls? The answer, given by a rather disconcerted Zuckerberg, is “No.” While Facebook has been quick to introduce video calling inside its huge social network, it has failed to integrate the group feature that has so many people excited about Google+ Hangouts.
Facebook’s Skype powered video calling has other limitations too. For instance, even though it uses the Skype framework, you cannot call people in your Skype contact list even if you have the program loaded. Additionally, the video calling feature does not let you call just about any person with a Facebook account. If someone is not in your friends list, you cannot call them. this is probably a good thing considering the vast number of fake profiles infiltrating Facebook everyday. Another problem is the fact that you cannot turn your video call into a voice only call like many programs allow you to do. It is strictly and exclusively “Video” calls only. Other limitations include no watching videos together with your friend or sharing files.
Google+ Hangouts and Facebook video calling have one thing in common. The inability to choose who can video call you and who can’t. Just about anyone in your Facebook “friends” or your Google+ “Circles” can call you. There are no privacy settings for this feature so far on either of the two social networks. In fact, I was rather taken by surprise when I realized anyone could just drop into a Hangout I was in with someone.
While Zuckerberg spent most of the announcement talking about how Facebook planned to develop the website for existing users rather than focus on growing the number of users, he might very well have meant he was more concerned with holding on to those he has instead of losing them to Google+.
Rabab Khan is our latest Contributor at New Mediator!
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