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Is Facebook Planning an Official Voice Calling Feature? With Skype? And Would Facebook Users Care?

News today out of ReadWriteWeb and The Daily What is that a "Call" button was spotted briefly inside someone's Facebook profile:


RWW goes on to speculate about whether or not this could be part of the "deep integration" between Facebook and Skype announced last September. Mike Melanson at RWW wrote this:

The move would make a lot of sense for Facebook, which has worked recently to become the center of your online communication experience. Its recent "not email" announcement debuted a form of communication that would supposedly work seamlessly between devices, so that there would be little differentiation between messaging, email and Facebook chat. Voice calling between users, whether from browser to browser, phone to browser, or browser to phone, would just make sense in creating a more seamless communication experience.

Now, there is the obvious question -

is the screenshot real?
Or are we being hoaxed? Having personally been in a situation where I received an inadvertant preview of possible new Facebook features (which sadly have yet to materialize), I'm inclined to believe that the screenshoot could be real.

The Skype Connection?

But is it connected to Skype, as RWW wonders? The "deep integration" reported by RWW in September did turn into reality in October with the release of Skype 5.0 for Windows and the integrated Facebook panel. That release allowed you to:

  • see your Facebook News Feed in Skype
  • post status updates that can be synced with your Skype mood message
  • comment and like friends’ updates and wall posts
  • call and SMS your Facebook friends on their mobile phones and landlines
  • make a free Skype-to-Skype call if your Facebook friend is also a Skype contact

This brought Facebook into Skype... so why not a reciprocal exchange of bringing Skype into Facebook?

As Google continues to amass voice resources through acquisitions, there's also a certain sense to it in the battle among the giants.

But Will Facebook Users Actually USE Voice Calling?

The larger question to me is whether or not Facebook users would actually use a voice calling capability. One commenter on The Daily What story voiced an feeling I've often heard expressed:


And indeed there are many phone/voice call applications already in existence for Facebook, some of which have been around for years. Back in October I reviewed one such app, the aptly named "Facebook Telephone" (in full disclosure, created by colleagues at Voxeo Labs as a demonstration of what could be done with the Phono SDK) and way back in April 2008 I reviewed an earlier Facebook application (also using Voxeo's platform). While applications like those have certainly seen some success, it hasn't been overwhelming... and begs the question of whether people inside the walls of Facebook truly want to interact via voice.

The Key Difference

The big difference from those applications and the "Call" feature we're all speculating about right now is exactly that...

all of the previous voice services are separate applications!

In order to use the app to communication with someone else inside of Facebook, both parties have to have the application installed.

There's the first barrier... and it's a huge one. It creates friction and no matter how easy the app creator makes it to install the app, it is still one more step that the recipient has to make in order to start communicating.

Now... imagine if Facebook just made voice calling part of the fabric of Facebook? What if everyone just got this "Call" button and were able to start making calls from their computer? Without any further installations of apps?

What if Facebook extended that to their mobile versions so that you could make calls directly from inside the app to anyone else? (You already can in the iPhone app... but only if your friend has entered a mobile phone number in their profile.)

Would this make Facebook more of a communications portal for you?

Stay tuned... the global war for your eyeballs... and your voice... is only going to get more crazy in the time ahead!

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