The Social Network and Skype Video on Facebook

Facebook Video Calling - Get Started
Image by stevegarfield via Flickr

Last night I watched the Social Network. I really enjoyed it but it left me with a few questions about some of the intricacies of the story of facebook, and it also got me thinking about what they’ve been doing lately.

The Skype Video on Facebook rumour was around for a long time before it was finally announced. It’s one of those things that initially you think is going to change the game completely, but then on reflection you start to wonder how many people will actually understand and use this new function.

If Skype are providing most of the back-end for this service, I’m not entirely sure how it helps them in the long run. They must have some sort of financial deal with Facebook to make this tie-up commercially viable, but it must also extend towards further integration which could include using skype’s paid services within the Facebook site itself, which would open up Skype’s paid offerings to practically everyone in the world where before it was a more niche product.

Obviously, now they’ve been bought by Microsoft (still would have prefered Google or Facebook) they don’t have to worry about money, but even so, I’m sure they want to prove to their new owners that they are very much self-sufficient and worthy of the big money takeover.

The newest version of Skype that I just downloaded includes even more Facebook integration. Now, rather than simply being able to read your newsfeed and call people who make their phone number public, you can actually instant message your Facebook friends directly from Skype. It sounds interesting, but from my quick experiment, it seems to override your group settings so you’ll appear online to everyone whenever you’re on Skype, and that’s hardly ideal especially for people with a ton of “friends”. I like the idea though, and surely the next step is to add cross platform video calling, as the technology is surely there now to do it. Unfortunately, this new version of Skype is riddled with bugs and is unstable, so I’m kind of wanting to go back to the previous one.

It’s going to be increasingly tough for people who aren’t particularly comfortable with appearing on video chat to avoid it. This technology will become more and more mainstream, what with the inevitable growth of services such as facetime and other mobile video chat clients. Then again, no one’s going to chain anyone down and force them to use it, so I say bring on the revolution.

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Skype and Qik

Image representing Qik as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Qik is a service which, like Skype has a lot of facets within itself. The service allows you to stream video to the web, desktop or have 2-way video calling on mobiles. Skype have paid $100 million for the company, which will incorporate Qik’s into the existing Skype service.

What we should likely expect from this would be Skype video messaging and other ways to save live video for later, as well as the ability to share it with people individually or on social networks and blogs.

I think it’s an interesting acquisition and I would definitely find a use for the Qik feature-set were they to appear in Skype soon, but if Qik stayed as an independent entity then I can’t say I would be likely to use the service as it is now as it just doesn’t appeal to me currently.

Skype – How it changed everything, and mobile video calling

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

When I come to think of it, Skype has become an indispensable tool for me recently. I mostly use it to keep in close contact with someone very special to me, and the fact that it’s free to talk to someone in another country for hours every day in perfect sound quality is amazing to me still. I guess it’s only when you really find a practical application for something like this that it really makes you realise how truly useful it is.

Imagine a world without services such as Skype now. Phone bills would be a killer, especially from mobiles. Even text messages to international numbers are ridiculously expensive considering how simple it must be for carriers to transmit that data by this point in time. I know first hand how much international text messages drain your phone credit. You have to strike a balance between wanting to communicate with the person in question and how much you’re willing to give to your rip-off phone network.

Until recently I think I was paying around 20p per message. I then looked at Skype’s SMS charges and found that they only charge 6p per message internationally. I then decided I would use Skype credit for texting whenever I can avoid using my phone. The coolest thing about this service is that you can even validate your phone number with Skype. This allows you to send texts from any Skype app, desktop or mobile and they appear to the person you’re sending them to as just a regular text message from your number.

This is the only Skype premium feature I make use of currently but it’s all I really need right now. They offer a vast selection of cost saving services and while it can appear confusing upon first glance, I think most internet users, especially those comfortable with VOIP should be able to make the most of it with relative ease.

Before I wrote this post, my original plan was to just talk about the new mobile video for iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s something I was hoping they were going to add as soon as I saw Apple unveil FaceTime on iPhone 4 with the front facing camera. It was an obvious next step for mobile Skype that I’m glad we now have.

While I’m not the most comfortable person appearing on video, I can say that the technology itself seems to work brilliantly. The quality was very smooth from what I could tell from my end when I’ve had trouble recently with my MacBook camera.

Aside from the recent major outage, Skype is always a fantastic tool for communication and I look forward to seeing them continue to innovate in both free and paid services. It would be a sad day if we ever lose the ability to call anyone, anywhere for free so I hope we never have to now.

Skype 5 with Facebook

Skype Technologies S.A. logo
Image via Wikipedia

We heard a while ago that we may see some kind of major Facebook and Skype collaboration. We all wanted to see Skype on the FB site itself, and a deeper kind of integration. However, what we unded up with instead is still pretty cool and useful if you make use of both services, which if you’re like me, you probably do.

Skype 5, currently only available for Windows but hopefully other platforms soon, allows you to log-in with Facebook connect and access your news feed as well as your Facebook phonebook. If any of your contacts list their numbers in their profiles, you’ll be able to call them using your Skype credit directly from the app. Furthermore, if any of your friends have their Skype accounts connected to Facebook, you’ll be able to call or IM them on Skype, even if you’re not actually contacts on the service up until then. Whether or not you have to request to become a contact first will depend on their privacy settings on Skype.

I think they’ve done a good job with this new version and I hope it comes to Mac soon. The downside at this point would have to be that there is more and more negative attention surrounding applications leaking your personal details on Facebook, and therefore that could impact the Skype integration’s usefulness if people refrain from posting their personal numbers.

If I was to post mine, I would make a small list of people that could see it and no one else, because it’s not something I would want to risk giving out. Overall though, it’s a nice improvement on Skype and it makes sense for these two behemoths of internet communication to team up, even if it is fairly basic at this stage. I’m hoping we’ll see some really cool stuff from them in the future possibly in the browser next time.