“Awesome.” The dictionary defines the word as “inspiring awe,” and it defines the word “awe” as “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.”
Wednesday morning, Mark Zuckerberg made what he called an “awesome” announcement to the world. While Zuckerberg is undoubtedly grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like, what was his announcement that would inspire reverence, admiration, and fear?
Facebook has a new chat interface that offers video chatting, and the company is doing it in collaboration with Skype. Not only will users now be able to message their BFFFs (Best Facebook Friends Forever) to ask if they want to see Transformers 3 (the example that appears on Facebook’s own blog page). They will now be able to see their friend’s reaction to determine if the smiley face emoticon is a true reflection of what they feel. That could, indeed, inspire some fear.
If this were new, it might inspire more reverence, but the fact is that video conferencing via Skype and other such services has been around for a while now. Even Facebook’s blog admits: “Video chat has been around for years now.” The advantage, they go on to say, is that they are now able “to bring video calling to over 750 million people,” which happens to be the same number of people who are currently connected to Facebook.
The real question that should be asked is: how much bandwidth will this take up, once 750 million people start video chatting via Facebook? Lots, says Zuckerberg, which is why Facebook has decided to build more data centers.
As CNET hints, the move can also be seen as another salvo in Facebook’s efforts to take on Google. The partnership with Skype is really a partnership with Microsoft, once the No. 1 internet company in the world. Over the past few years, Microsoft has been outshone by more recent upstarts like Google and, yes, Facebook.
In its climb to the top, Facebook seems to be establishing a coalition with one of Google’s prime competitors. As Zuckerberg himself said, “We have a really good relationship with Microsoft, where we work with them on a lot of different stuff.” Tony Bates of Skype confirmed this saying, “the day we announced, we definitely came to see Mark.”
On the other hand, it remains to be seen how this collaborative venture will go over with another arch-rival of Google, Apple. Not only is Apple competing against Google, but it is also competing against Microsoft. This leaves the old question dangling: “Is my enemy’s enemy my friend”? Facebook users can now discuss that on video chat.