Speech-based capabilities within social networks could significantly disrupt the existing voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and telecom landscape, according to a survey on consumer communication habits conducted by Vivox. Does the name of that company sound familiar?
It should. Vivox makes the technology behind Bobsled for T-Mobile, the Facebook application that offers free VoIP calls on the social network. That's right: calls from a PC or Mac to a PC or Mac are free, regardless of where you are connecting from and to.
It's thus not too surprising that the survey results are so in favor of Facebook and VoIP. Nevertheless, the key findings are still quite interesting:
- 88 percent of Facebook users want voice chat capabilities within the site. If we assume Facebook has 600 million users, then 88 percent is 506 million people worldwide.
- Four times more Facebook users would prefer to call their Facebook friends from the site than any other way on their PC.
- 93 percent of social networkers would want to call their friends' or family members' phones and/or mobile devices from Facebook.
For the first point, it's worth noting that Skype has 150 million active users and Google Voice has 200 million. The top three telecom providers in the world have 589 million subscribers (China Mobile), 343 million subscribers (UK's Vodaphone), and 382 million subscribers (Singapore's Singtel). In the US, the subscribers of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint combined equal 273 million.
The second and third points aren't too surprising given that Facebook is the world's biggest social network. Taking that into account though, the level of interest is still quite impressive.
"The popularity of device- and application-based voice services is overwhelming, however, voice chat has yet to find its role the social media landscape," Vivox CMO Rob Frasca, of said in a statement. "This survey demonstrates that not only does this new, socially-savvy Internet population have a need for integrated voice chat on Facebook, but voice on Facebook could significantly change the communications landscape. Vivox is eager to lead this charge as our goal is to help people communicate with anyone, anytime, anywhere, across any platform or device."
Frankly, this survey makes me wonder why Facebook doesn't simply develop its own VoIP addition to Facebook Chat. Do the costs currently outweigh the benefits?