Video calling or chatting is what the denizens of the web world are all excited about. Google+ has come up with its video chatting circle and huddle features. Facebook soon followed through with their ‘something big” promise of a similar feature with Skype.
So what is the world so excited about that reams are being written on the relative merits of one over the other? Video chatting and conferencing has been around for a long time.
Maybe Tom Anderson of Myspace hit the right button when he says that NOW is the right time for the features. The popularity of the social media will see to video chatting gaining wide acceptance. As Mark Zuckerberg very proudly said, Faacebook has 750 million users who will be open to use this feature.
It is perfect business model: Build on your core capacity by giving value added features.
Time maybe Right or Is It?
The time may be right but how do you actually turn the fad factor into usage factor?.
Let us here get into some number crunching. A survey of 2,300 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by the VOIP service Rebtel found that Americans still overwhelmingly prefer to communicate by voice. 74% of respondents said that they kept in touch with friends through phone and 81% said it's their preferred method of communicating with family members.
Regarding the video calling that some VOIP services offer, however, the numbers still look quite low: 13% use video chat to talk to family, 9% use it to talk to friends and just 6% use it to talk to their partners or spouse.
At work, however, people prefer to send emails: 43% of respondents said they would choose email, 33% would choose voice/phone, 12% would text, and just 6% would use social networking sites to communicate with co-workers.
We at IBTimes did our own dipstick study about communication preferences amongst friends, colleagues and relatives numbering 50. The overwhelming vote went to phones for personal messages, then text. Email came in second. For business it was email and phones again. Video chatting was done by only 4 out of 50 people at work. That is 8 per cent.
An important part of a seamless experience in video calling is having the right technology at your disposal. Here bandwidth of an internet connection is important.
A highspeed dial up operates at a speed between 128 kbps and 8 megabits per second (mbps). Highspeed internet cable connection accessible to most digital cable television customers, offers 1.5 to 6 mbps of bandwidth.
A satellite connection provides residential internet service at up to 1.5 mbps speed.
T1 lines (widely used by businesses) operate at a high speed of 1.54 megabits per second (mbps). It is available in 328 kbps and 512 kbps also
For a clear definition video a dual core processor and a fast internet connection of 512 kbps or more is required.
Here is another calculation. Video streamed at 300kbps watched by 50 people for one hour each day, for an entire month would equal 202.5GB's of bandwidth.
Even if people have access to this kind of connectivity, is it affordable?
In most of the developing countries, access to uninterrupted power supply is another problem. Internet penetration and connectivity may be high but it all depends on the kind of services that are available to these people.
Skype has been charging $5 to 10 per month for multi-video chatting. Google plus, on the other hand, is ready to bear the cost of high-bandwidth multiperson video chat in order to get its foot in the market. It is believed that the Google hangout system is designed in such a way that it puts much of the technical burden on the client side, or the end user's computer.
A San Diego company in its bid to tap this bandwidth market has even announced support for the increased cost that companies will face with these new features. According to them, getting cost-effective bandwidth is expensive and is offering customers a solution for web filtering and management. All this to control overuse of internet in the work environment.
Video chatting, when it comes with so much of fanfare and media hype, is worth checking out for its fad value. But for it to become a part of our everyday social vocabulary will still take some time.