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Oh Boy, Another Way to Video Chat

July 7, 2011

I still remember an interesting interview I had back in 2008 with a tech entrepreneur named Yanda Erlich. Yanda had just launched a service called SocialIM, an instant-messaging app that worked within the Facebook platform and co-opted your Facebook Friends list.

We talked a lot about the attention dynamics of IM–specifically, Yanda said “the beauty of IM [is] continuous partial attention. The predominant way to use IM is when you’re doing something else.”

As such, it makes perfect sense for IM to live within the Facebook environment. And as we know, Facebook ended up deploying its own version of SocialIM a few years ago.

The other reason IM makes sense on social networks is because social networks own the most robust versions of our social graph. Why should I maintain a separate contact list for AIM, MSN, or GChat when Facebook has a much more complete list of all the people I’d ever want to talk to? Trillian and Digsby smartly export Facebook Friends lists into traditional IM applications, for just this reason.

The recent Facebook announcement of adding Skype video chat to Facebook was met with a collective snore for a couple reasons. First, Google+ had just launched as a whole new social platform with a similar video chat feature. Second, video chat is just not a natural fit with social networks, for the reason that Yanda outlined so well. Video chatting is not a format for “continuous partial attention,” and more and more, that’s the kind of format we want. I can maintain 30 email threads, 10 IM conversations, and 5 Twitter back-and-forths at the same time; or I can have one video chat.

Video chatting is still an appointment form of communicating. Google+ is trying to change that by making “hangouts” (video chatting with a more casual name), but typically, we set up a video chat by sending a text or an email first. Frankly, I consider it rude for a Skype friend to randomly call me expecting me to fire up my webcam and chat with them. No thanks, I’m doing stuff (that’s why I’m logged onto my computer). Send me an IM instead.

The truly useful feature that comes out of Skype/Facebook integration is being able to use Skype with my Facebook social graph. Of course, MySpace had video chat in 2004 and Skype integration way back in 2007.

3 Comments leave one →
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