While it may have been "awesome" a week ago, Facebook's annoucement that it is now offering group chat and video calling may have lost some of its shine due to the launch of Google+.
Mark Zuckerberg, who himself has a Google+ account, speaking at his company's press event yesterday, sidestepped direct questions about the new Google product, though did suggest other companies that are doing "too many" things may not be as successful as Facebook in the social arena.
The announcement was for the launch of a partnership with Skype to provide video calling inside Facebook. "Video calling is the first example of what we think of as a great social app," the Facebook CEO stated.
Zuckerberg also detailed the new group chat app that started today that will work with the site's Groups product, "used by 50% of all Facebook users," he claimed.
To start video chatting you need to install a plugin - even though you may have Skype you still have to do this - and you may have to turn off your virus protection to get the install to go though. Below is my experience.
1. Start using the service.
2. Request to install plugin.
3. Install the plugin.
4. Get error message.
5. Get Virus warning!
Basically it works the same as Google's video chat in Gchat inside your Gmail.
The Facebook Group chat is exactly like Gmail group chat - you start with one person then add people by selecting the Add Friends to Chat button at the top of the chat window.
I did not see this in my Facebook but the help section walks you through using it.
All in all there were no real 'awesome' elements to anything mentioned at the press conference, but Zuckerberg's refusal to address Google head on suggests he realizes this is going to be a battle.
Facebook should win the teenage crowd and the older members who had the system set up for them and now are less willing to learn a new product. Google has the tech groups who are already on Plus, as well as others who see the potential to use it for marketing - these would now work both sites. How it will all end will start to show when Google+ goes public and Facebook gets the word, along with the bugs, out.
Incidentally, ClickZ confirmed that Video Calling and Group Chat features would not be available to marketers.