Group messaging is all the rage right now. Kik and GroupMe are making headlines across the blogosphere; Facebook scooped up Beluga not long ago; and tons of other startups, from BrightKite to TextPlus to Fast Society, are looking to capture part of the market for themselves.
Group texting is certainly popular these days--could the same be true of group video chatting? That's the hope of London-based company Fring, which today launched an iPad group video-chat app. The service allows users to chat simultaneously with four friends, over Wi-Fi or 3G, and see friends on other devices including the iPhone and Android-based smartphones.
“Fring is empowering tablet users to unleash the power of their 9.7-inch screens beyond movie watching and gaming to rich, fun personal video communication,” says CEO Avi Shechter. “With Group Video on the iPad, we are changing face to face video chat. Users will now be able to video socialize on big screen tablets enjoying seeing their friends wherever they are--as they commute, sunbathe at the beach or wait for coffee at a café.”
With Skype launching on the iPad this week and services like FaceTime already available, mobile video chatting is likely to become increasingly popular. And if ChatRoulette is the random-encounters-in-the-Motel-6-parking-lot of video services, then Fring has the potential to be the invite-only-no-single-men-allowed-orgy-club-your-quiet-neighbors-frequent.
A recent study by Pew found that roughly 7% of Internet users had tried video chatting on their cell phones. Another study indicated that many consumers want to video chat, but might not have the proper device to do so.
Yet with nearly all smartphones and tablets now coming to market with cameras, it's likely video chatting will become at the very least more accessible, especially with apps such as Fring.
Follow @fastcompany on Twitter.