Google today ramped up its social network Google+ by opening invites to the public and adding a slew of new mobile features. Two of the more impressive upgrades relate to Hangouts, the group video-chatting service the search giant has made core to its social offering. Some have suggested Hangouts could be Google’s “killer app,” and clearly the company has heard loud and clear, as SVP Vic Gundotra unveiled on Tuesday mobile Hangouts and Hangouts “On Air,” a service that lets users broadcast video to a large audience.
The more Google+ continues to invest in group video and Hangouts, especially in mobile, the more we wonder how Facebook will react. The world’s largest social network rarely lets competitors gain competitive advantages, especially one as large as Google. (Just look how Facebook has reacted to smaller threats from Groupon, Foursquare, and Instagram.) Facebook rolled out its Video Calls with Skype service back in July, a feature that integrated Skype directly into Facebook and its 750 million users. The Skype partnership, however, only enabled one-on-one video calls and wasn’t mobile.
What’s more, Skype product VP Neil Stevens told Fast Company he didn’t see Hangouts as much of a game-changer. More so, he saw it as a novelty. “Far and away, the first thing people wanted was two-way video,” he said. “The next thing we’re going to build: calling capability on Facebook, so that any phone number you see anywhere on Facebook–in a user profile, with an advertiser, a friend’s post, whatever it is–you can call that number. Then from there, we’ll evaluate what’s next. I don’t think group video the highest priority.”
With such a on-the-backburner mentality, it’s doubtful Skype will be pushing out group-video chat with Facebook. (“The group thing? It remains to be seen how big it can get,” Stevens said at the time.)
Then again, Facebook has its big f8 developers conference coming up, during which some big announcements are expected. USA Today, for one, indicated video-sharing and video-chat would play a big role at the conference, to stave off the growing threat of Google+. F8 kicks off Sept. 22 (we’ll be there).
Google+ is showing off its Hangout On Air with host, pop music thing Will.i.am on the evening of Sept. 21.