At a recent media event, Facebook unveiled its in-browser video chat solution for its social networking powerhouse. The online social media titan heralded this as an “awesome” feature, and backed up its claim by showing integration with Skype as well as a new design for the site’s existing Facebook Chat application. But is the company’s video chat offering really all it was cracked up to be in the lead-up to the media presentation?
The Google Effect
Facebook’s rush to unveil this new feature is largely assumed to have been prompted by Google Plus and its “Hangouts” application. Google’s new social network is taking the world by storm, and the so-called hangouts feature of its particular social networking product allows users to invite up to ten of their friends into a group video chat. It was largely deemed the “Facebook-killing” feature of Google’s new social networking product, and the online commentators and pundits were awaiting an appropriate response.
But Facebook’s video option lacks a group video chat feature at all, making it far inferior to Google’s product and prompting people to wonder what was really so “awesome” about the company’s foray into video chatting in the first place. And it has left many wondering if Facebook is really still in the game, or if they’ve fallen behind the times — and behind the competition — by becoming complacent as a result of their success to date.
The MySpace Effect
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that simply introducing innovative features is not enough to stop the competition from overtaking a social media giant. In 2004, MySpace introduced a revolutionary product that many thought would be “awesome.” That product was a video chat service through their online social media portal that was — you guessed it — integrated with Skype.
Seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, MySpace is a distant online memory that harkens back to the beginning of social networking. It fell quickly to the number-two social networking service, and then slid even further as poor finances and huge layoffs destroyed its business model. MySpace was always playing a game of catch-up, constantly responding to Facebook’s features rather than innovating with their own platform.
Facebook is still the most popular social networking website in the world, and it’s going to be hard to stop their continued success. But they should learn at least one thing from their former competition: there is no virtue in playing catch-up to an approaching threat. Instead, it must be out-innovated and out-maneuvered. So far, Facebook has decided that they will simply go feature-for-feature with Google voice, responding to each new feature the search giant unveils.
And that’s a perfect strategy — for anyone who idolizes the business model of the increasingly insignificant MySpace social networking hub.