Wednesday, July 6, 2011, 3:52 PM ET|Posted by Will RichmondFacebook and Skype introduced an elegant integration earlier today which allows Facebook members to easily video chat with each other. The demo looks slick; you simply go to a friend's profile page or find them in the chat window, click on the video camera icon and are connected. One big benefit of the integration vs. the way Skype ordinarily works is that you can instantly communicate with your friend on Facebook that you want to have a video call and if the friend doesn't have the Skype plug-in they can download it in 20-30 seconds and get started.
By taking a lot of the friction out of video chatting, and by exposing this feature to Facebook's 750 million users, this new feature could become the next big inflection point for online and mobile video usage. Over the last 5 years online and mobile video usage has exploded, and arguably YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Apple have been the main drivers. YouTube's user-generated and sharing roots exposed tens of millions of people to watching video online in the first place. Then Hulu and Netflix capitalized on this awareness by making household-name premium quality video available. Apple has played its part introducing mobile devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad) that enable more convenient, flexible viewing.
Now comes Facebook and Skype. Because of Facebook's scale and its users' social behavior, video chatting could become one of its most popular apps. In fact, Skype CEO Tony Bates explained the momentum Skype already has in video: 300 million minutes per month of video calling that periodically peak at more than 50% of its traffic. Now imagine what happens when all those Facebook users are exposed to Skype from within the Facebook environment. And the potential apps that will be developed that sit on top of video chat, or eventually group video chat.
Online video usage has come a long way quickly, but Facebook-Skype shows that it's still in its relative early days. In addition, with Apple's FaceTime, Google+ and other initiatives, video communication is poised to become pervasive as additional innovations are introduced. A larger point Zuckerberg made today was that with the social infrastructure now in place, applications will really begin to take off. No doubt that's the case with video.