Facebook Takes Aim at Hangouts, FaceTime

Social is as video does -- or at least it would appear so, what with Google+'s Hangouts video chat jumping into a spot where they weren't, all while building some sexy buzz. And Apple's FaceTime lets users do the lean-back vid chat in a strong, seamless manner, too, in a person-to-person setting (as well as via desktop).

Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new partnership with Skype that will allow all of its users to directly video chat with friends without ever leaving the social network.

Now Facebook has (finally) integrated a video chat into its interface in such a way that it may leapfrog to the fore of letting others see you from your office chair, poorly lit, and/or with some Doritos powder on the corner of your mouth. The partnership with Skype may well pay off after all.

While FaceTime is utility with the potential for more fun use, it's still a mobile app -- otherwise it's Skype, isn't it? And with Hangouts, users can effortlessly chat in something akin to the opening credits of the "Brady Bunch."

The real win -- unlike the free version of Skype -- is that both Facetime's and Google+'s engines are solid and seamless, allowing for very little, if any, latency and zero user frustration. In Google's case, the interface is tied solidly to the browser, allowing for limited skipping or transmission delays, according to GigaOm.

While Facebook may be late to the video-chat space, the critical strategic and business question is whether they are limping into the space, or leaping in and differentiating. Unless there's a quick Phase Two, there's not too much in here to make Google+ worry about its new-found status as being the sexy social net -- at least for now.

The ability to share assets -- GIFs or PDFs or whatever -- while maintaining the video chat is critical, especially since Google+ has already provided that function.


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