Facebook Skype Calling vs. Google+ Hangouts

In a highly anticipated announcement today, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is teaming up with Skype to introduce the ability for users to have video calls with each other. Unfortunately, this feature lacks some of the fundamental perks that makes Google+ Hangouts so interesting.

Jake Ludington, a member of the LockerGnome team, joined me for a quick test of this new feature. During the test we were almost immediately made aware of some flaws present in the service which Facebook will need to improve upon if they hope to make a strong case against Google+ Hangouts.

The first barrier to entry (for Mac users) is the required installation of a Java file (not JavaScript) that allows you to make a call. Windows users have a slightly more convenient executable file. Google’s integration requires an installation as well, but the process is almost completely automatic in comparison.

Video quality isn’t great at all, at least not during our test. Jake appeared extremely pixelated when his connection should be more than sufficient for clear video. This may be due to the heavy traffic on the service closely following the announcement, though there was no sign of this clearing up at any point throughout the call.

Audio fed back constantly. This is a common problem with Skype that is only solved by requiring both parties to wear headphones. Ideally, the program should duck anyone except the loudest speaker while they are talking, and this didn’t appear to be the case during the test.

It was nice to be able to move the video window around and place it in a location that didn’t immediately disturb any work you may be doing at the time of the call. The convenience of having it integrated with a social network 750 million users are already a part of is also a big potential draw for this service. Even as frustrating as the initial installation may have been, knowing that the majority of your contacts are more likely to be on Facebook than any of a dozen other social networks counts towards this system’s likelihood for success.

Overall, this new venture between Facebook and Skype doesn’t seem as impressive as Google Hangouts, especially given the lack of group conferencing and virtually echoless audio. If this is Facebook’s answer to Google+, I have a feeling they are facing a competitive and difficult road ahead.

8 thoughts on “Facebook Skype Calling vs. Google+ Hangouts”

  1. This is the “awesome” feature promised by Facebook. What did I learn after that? Mark Zuckerberg needs to buy a dictionary. He hardly understand the meaning of the word “awesome”.

  2. It may not be as impressive, but that magical 750 Million number still gives it a SIGNIFICANT amount of leverage. People are already there, so it’ll most likely be an almost instant hit in my opinion.

  3. I tried it from my laptop with a couple with a laptop each. Neither of us used a headset. We had virtually no sound feedback and our voices came through just fine on both ends. I guess you just had bad luck with your friend’s system feeding back too much. Also I talked with my sister on her desktop, without both a microphone and webcam. She could still hear and see me (somewhat unstable through several connections) but she had to type-chat back to me.

    The second most annoying point for me about both Skype and Facebook Videocall is the forced size of the video window. I’d like to be able to make it smaller and also make it hide behing other windows (when I want to). As it as now it was either Always-on-top or minimised.

    The most annoying point was that I couldn’t use it in Firefox 5! I had to use Chrome or IE to see the little videocall icon. This will most likely be fixed soon.

  4. All the above ones are hosted services with monthly recurring payment options. If you are looking out for a onetime payment option, I would recommend on premise RHUB web conferencing appliances.

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