Last week, news erupted that Facebook was working on a phone, but the news was so bizarre that many held back, even the people reporting the information. This should have been an Internet goldmine of discussion, but something was amiss and now we know why.
This past week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Skype and Facebook will be joining forces and that the Skype service would be seemlessly integrated with the worlds largest social network. Anti-trust anyone? Not right now, we don’t even know what Facebook is really worth, its still just too cool to value for any less than 40,50, or 80 billion.
The combination makes sense but what are the implications for new media? Is this really as simple as Skype in Facebook? Below, I will argue that it is not, this is fundamentally different, both services are good at hyperpersonal communication but via different mediums – the medium is the message in this case.
Facebook excels at connecting people in a group-individual way. In other words, individuals can interact and are augmented by different groups (networks, friends, etc). The media is hyperpersonal in that it includes the thoughts of the user, their friends, and their friends. It can be very intimate and detailed look into a persons life and thoughts. However, that communication suffers from the medium it is using. To truly “communicate” somebody has to move to a an application like Skype to hear and see the other person. Further, Facebook’s chat isn’t really that integrated into their service, it feels kind of foreign and 1990’s in style and form.
Skype excels at giving already connected people hyperpersonal contact over large distances. It is the global telephone network, and currently hosts a 13% of all international calls. For all the press Facebook gets, Skype is becoming international telecommunications infrastructure. So the real magic is making Facebook’s connecting prowess more hyperpersonal when that connection is made.
What if people could post live videos to their Facebook page via Skype, have people follow and call them if desired? Create a conference call with your friends, transcript the voice via automated algorithms, and simultaneously all upload videos of yourself or where you are. This seems a pretty powerful tool for individuals to have on a global level.
You can now get connected, congregate, discuss, record and disseminate all in one place. Granted, sites like Justin.TV have been around for a while but the social capital generated by close relationships and their increasingly hyperintensive interactions will create much more of it.
What if people no longer had a profile pic but a live profile video? Their life could be seen and heard in real time. The ramifications are huge, and I’m willing to bet organizations around the world will leverage the new medium to interact like they never have before.
What have I missed here? (A lot I am sure!) What do you think this change means?