It's hard to make the case that what essentially is a defensive move can also be described as "something awesome."
But since the one making the case is Mark Zuckerberg, much of the tech press likely will rhapsodize over Facebook's new video chat capability (courtesy of Skype and its new owner, Microsoft), and a direct response to Google+, the new social networking service that includes a group video chat feature.
As IDG News Service's Nancy Gohring explains:
Users will be able to click a button in Facebook to call a friend. If the friend does not already have the plugin required for video chat, the friend will see a pop-up to download the plugin. That download should just take 10 or 20 seconds, [Zuckerberg said] during a webcast press conference on Wednesday.
All well and good, and just the first of what Facebook says will be a number of application announcements this summer.
But awesome? Skype, of course, already exists and has more than 660 million registered users, if not regular users. So we're really just talking about enabling video chat on Facebook.
I'm sure many Facebook users will eagerly embrace video chat. Most won't bother, or will try it once or twice and then forget all about it. My experience is that, as forms of communication go, video chat is more draining than, say, texting, tweeting, emailing, posting or this outmoded thing they used to call talking on the phone.
That's because it requires more focus, more attention to appearance, posture, facial gestures, framing, etc. It's probably the least casual way for people to communicate over the Internet, which runs counter to the persistent societal trend toward less-formal communication.
Just last week, my 13-year-old daughter was experimenting with Skype, video-chatting with one of her friends. You could see her friend right there on the computer monitor, eating potato chips quite loudly, jaw slack, mouth open. Unless she sharpens up her act, that kid's Skype career will be a short one.
But why bother sharpening up when you can just text back and forth, free of video or audio responsibilities, thus liberating you to face-plant into a entire bowl of potato chips, if you so desire.
So, yes, while Skype video chat on Facebook is a cool thing, it's hardly "awesome" and it isn't a game-changer.