Desperate to increase video chat usage, Facebook is testing out a “Call” button on top of people’s timeline profiles. I don’t think I’ve received a Facebook video chat since Facebook partnered with Skype to launch the feature a year ago, but now that might change. If a friend is online on the desktop version of Facebook, those in the test see a “Call” button next to that friends name on their profile , while previously a tiny videocamera icon in the text chat window was basically the only way to start a video chat.
Facebook seems to have realized it needed to highlight the feature, otherwise when people want to smile and laugh with friends face to face their first thought might be the Google+ and its Hangouts, or the newly launched Airtime from former Facebook President Sean Parker.
Airtime debuted last week with the mission to re-humanize the Internet through the intimacy of real-time video chat. A subtle message of the launch was “Facebook really isn’t the personal” because users primarily interact the asynchronous news feed posts or text-based chat.
That might have touched a nerve with Facebook, which prides itself on being the premier way to connect online. Maybe Facebook agrees that real-time video chat is much more vivid way to share, and it’s a shame so few people even realize it exists. Facebook actually had a Call button on the old version of the profile, but it got buried in a gear settings drop-down menu. Now the feature will be much easier to find, and when you stop by a friend’s profile you might decide to ring them for quick face-to-Facebook.
We haven’t seen any of the additional Facebook Skype features promised at the video chat feature’s launch in July 2011, including group video chat, Facebook-to-Skype-Client calling, or paid Facebook to standard phone number audio calling.
Maybe now Facebook will step its game up, and consider adding those and copying the standout feature of Airtime and Hangouts (which Google spruced up today with collaborative video playlists and easier sharing): allowing two people to watch a video such as a YouTube clip together at the same time.
As much fun as staring at someone else’s face is, Sean Parker proved at the Airtime launch that sometimes you just want watch a gopher scream “Alan!” with one of your best friends.