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Why Skype For Facebook Will Be a Dud

However, will this upcoming amazing announcement turn out to be a disappointment just like Facebook Messages did?

I have to admit that those accidental "announcements" are somewhat confusing to me. Zuckerberg is pushing us to our imaginary limits once again, but isn't it likely that a message gets hyped too much and will disappoint (and fail) in the end? Apparently, the cat is already out of the bag and Facebook will announce Skype for Facebook tomorrow.

What is fascinating is that Zuckerberg's "amazing" statement was enough to fill a virtual Notre Dame's football stadium as the promised "product announcement" has a confirmed attendance of 80,617 people at the time of this writing. And you thought your press conferences and announcement events were packed. If Skype for Facebook is really the big announcement tomorrow, then I wonder if we are settings us up for a big disappointment. Let's think about this seriously: Would you use Skype on Facebook? Sure, the option of voice chat and a free phone call to one of your friends is enticing, but, seriously - would you use audio chat on Facebook?

I will place a bet: No, you won't.

The simple reason is that audio chat goes against the typical social behavioral pattern of a Facebook user. While we love to be seen and engage with others to raise our visibility on Facebook, we tend to value our privacy as well. Remember the proposition of Skype calls on Ebay when Ebay acquired Skype? That did not work out so well for both Ebay and Skype. Despite our exposure on Facebook, there is still a certain distance that enables us to remove ourselves from engagements we do not want. Let's admit it, chat popups can be utterly annoying. Imagine you may now be getting phone calls. Sigh.

That is not to say that some of us may not be using Skype and audio chats to communicate with close friends and family. But I will take a confident guess that this will be a rather limited scenario as many of us don't know a substantial portion of our friends anyway- at least not well enough to ring through for a casual phone call. This casual "just checking in, how are you?" works on a text chat, but is awkward in a voice call. Do you think I am too pessimistic? Let's look at voice chats that are available right now on Facebook.

Vivox launched more than a year ago and is now called Vroom and has just 2668 monthly active users on Facebook. It seems that the 2000 user mark is a tough nut to crack: Voice Chat for Facebook has fewer than 2000 users and Talkr is at about 2100 users. Either these services aren't marketed very well (Vivox was launched with a splash and had significant media coverage, such as a feature article on Mashable) or we are just not that excited about voice chat on Facebook.

There is one notable exception: Mingleverse seems to have more than 318,000 monthly average users on Facebook (they say they have 250,000 subscribers now.) It is a striking difference to the other services, but the app approach is just as striking. The audio chat is the enabler of the app, not the key feature. Much of the Mingleverse feature set caters to social engagements such as image or video sharing in a dedicated "mingle room". It goes well beyond the simple audio chat, even if this is possible with Mingleverse as well.

Audio in itself, of course, has its problems, too. Advanced users consider communication on multiple levels, including via audio, business as usual, but we should not forget that not all mainstream users may be comfortable with using a headset and sift through audio configuration settings. Everything combined, I just don't believe that Skype on Facebook will be the killer product that it is currently built up to be - at least not if it is a simple slap-on solution and comes with about as much innovative spirit as the Facebook integration in Skype.

However, I also believe that there is an opportunity for Skype on Facebook that is a bit more complicated to realize and will not reveal itself via a chat window on your Facebook profile page. Sure, there are possibly 700 million Facebook users (and 660 million Skype users, by the way) and just a fraction of them signing up for phone service could be a major revenue deal for both parties. Add the recently patented wiretapping technology Microsoft could sell to governments and the plain possibility that we are talking via Skype on Facebook turns into a billion-dollar-business. They would be stupid an d not try shooting for this revenue source. Criminals frequently spill secrets on Facebook - so why not in Skype as well?

However, the true attempt may be a connection of multiple platforms. We should remember that Skype is now owned by Microsoft and we should also remember that Microsoft owns a share of Facebook, which means that Microsoft has a real interest in attaching itself and its platforms much more to Facebook. My bet would be on Xbox, Kinect and Xbox Live, which could leverage Skype as a bridge communication path to Facebook. This is about the only path that sounds sensible to me, if Skype is coming to Facebook. If we are just talk about audio-chat and a video-conferencing video for Facebook, then there is a good chance that this implementation has been a waste of time for both parties.