Facebook's awesome announcement is a video chat in partnership with Skype. It's a pretty impressive product and work of engineering because it's just so easy to use. Even a grandfather, said a Facebook engineer, could learn to use it to chat with his grandson.
The CEOs of Facebook and Skype acknowledged that video chat has existed for a long time. However, it's never been this easy, they said.
Their problem, however, is that inconvenience isn't holding back video chat. In other words, those who really want video chat - say a US soldier in Iraq and his family back in the states - already have it. Most of those who don't want it won't be persuaded to use it just because it's easy.
What Mark Zuckerberg and Tony Bates (Skype CEO) seemed to have ignored is that many people don't want to use video chat. In fact, they don't even want to speak on the telephone.
Make whatever overarching sociological commentary you want, but that's the truth.
Ever since text messaging became ubiquitous on the cell phone, I've been calling people less and less. I even have an avant-garde friend who exclusively uses texts and shuns the phone. As for communicating on the Internet, text communication (i.e. chats) is by far my favorite medium.
I currently have an HTC Android phone that's capable of calling, video chatting, and texting/messaging. All of them are easy and cheap to use. Guess which one I use the most by far?
Of course, having the video chatting feature is a plus for Facebook because there are many other people who appreciate the face time it offers.
However, there aren't enough of them and this video chatting feature isn't something I would bet the farm on.
I certainly hope it wasn't Facebook's awesome trump card response to the challenge from Google+.