Facebook Video Calling vs. Google+ Hangouts [Analysis]

Facebook Video Calling vs. Google+ Hangouts [Analysis]

Summary: Facebook Video Calling wins from a practical perspective while Google+ Hangouts wins from a technical perspective.


Last week, Google announced Google+, which includes a video chat feature called Hangouts. Yesterday, Facebook unveiled its Skype-powered Video Calling service. So, which one is better?

Google's Hangouts feature allows up to 10 people to simultaneously engage in a group video chat. The main video feed switches based on who is speaking into the microphone.

Facebook's Video Calling feature offers one-on-one video chat powered by Skype. The video functionality is available directly in Facebook Chat in over 70 different languages.

From a technical perspective, Google's Hangouts wins hands down. Of course, it's never that simple.

You see, Facebook has 750 million active users, who share 4 billion "things" on the site every day. Google+ just launched, and Google isn't even letting everyone use it yet.

If I fire up Facebook Chat right now, approximately 10 percent of my Facebook friends are on my contact list. Half of them are online, and I can ask them to video chat immediately, and the other half are offline, but I can leave them a video message.

If I open up Google+ right now, one person is available to use the video chat feature. In other words, the multi-video chat aspect is completely useless to me.

From a practical perspective, Facebook's Video Calling wins hands down. It's still not that simple though.

You see, even if all the friends you want to video chat with never join Google+, word will still get around that it offers better features. As a result, Facebook will eventually be expected to catch up, or else.

So why didn't Facebook just add multi-chat video calling from the start? Facebook says this is because one-on-one video chat is more popular on Skype than group video chat. That may be true, but the starting point is skewed: Skype charges for group video chat.

Skype's group video calling feature also allows 10 people to videoconference together, but is only available as part of the Premium package. It costs $5.00/€3.50/£3.00 per day or $9.00/€6.00/£5.00 per month.

This is where Facebook's biggest problem lies: it didn't build video chat itself. Unless the company is willing to pay Skype (so far, the two companies have not exchanged any money for their partnership) to offset the cost, very few users are going to use group video chat. Google doesn't have this problem because it has more money to throw at its social initiative than Facebook has ever made as a company.

There is, however, one huge area that is arguably much more important than group video chat: mobile. Whichever company manages to integrate video chat into its mobile app will be rated very highly by its user base.

All in all, this leaves us with a race that will span the next few years. Google will be trying to get users to join its service and buy over Facebook users with shiny new features. Facebook will try to keep users engaged more and more on the site so that regardless of what other services they join, they will keep coming back to where all their friends are.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Google

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

    I agree on the video chat on mobile thing. My wife and I have "4G" phones with front facing cameras and I'm just waiting for something to use it with. I know there are apps out there, but I don't want another. I have a google account, skype, and facebook, who is going to give me mobile video calls first.
    • Im really looking forward to getting a Nokia windows phone when they

      come out. The Nokia/MS/Skpe/Facebook combo is so powerful. The best handset build quality, an order of magnitude beyond apple, moto, htc, samsung, etc. The best os/ui and integrated experience. If MS integrates skype as well as theyve integrated facebook it will be hands down the winner. it's so nice the way theyve integrated it to where you dont need a separate app for it. Very much looking forward to them doing the same thing with skype on the phone next year. And with Bing search and maps and directions and local info already better than googles equivalents and the nokia maps and navtek stuff coming in the partnership to widen that gap even further 2012 should be a great year for mobile. Going to be a great next 12 months and my wireless contract will be ready to renew just in time to get one cheap. I cant wait to see all this come together on windows 8 tablets next year too. Not sure if nokia will make a tablet to but there should be plenty to choose from...
      Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

      @RichHalvor I'm enjoying video on my iPod touch via Skype. I imagine it works fine on an iPhone as well.
    • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

      Sorry, I guess I should have specified. I meant holiday 2012. There's no way, we'll see final code this year, and I know there is a lot of work to be done with Windows.Next, but prolonging that into 2013, would be a bad idea<a href="http://www.ayimpex.com/Complete-Plant-for-Hulled-Sesame-Seeds-Processing.htm">seeds hulling machine</a>
  • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

    Emil, are you using a pseudonymous in G+, I was looking for you to follow you.
    • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

      I found him here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103897375441006577816
  • RE: Facebook Video Calling vs. Google Hangouts [Analysis]

    "You see, Facebook has 750 million active users, who share 4 billion ?things? on the site every day. Google+ just launched, and Google isn?t even letting everyone use it yet."

    Umm, so do you really think Google is going to stay this way forever?

    Obviously not, so this point is moot. Yes, Google will be rolling it out over time.

    "Whichever company manages to integrate video chat into its mobile app will be rated very highly by its user base."

    It's likely that both will eventually.

    And lest you forget - Skype is already available for mobile. And yeah, it's got video. I've used it.

    And to be honest - I don't really think that video chat will be the deal breaker here. I think it will be the overall experience.
  • Business Gifts

    Google Plus has hangouts where people can video chat with multiple friends in one go! Facebook has yet to match this feature! Facebook only has been able to implement group chats but certainly not video chats with multiple users within one chat. Right now there are 750 million users on Facebook and they are happy to use Facebook services, whereas Google Plus is going to need to pull people off of Facebook, wean them off and convince them that Google plus has better features and functions that beat those on Facebook. That's the only way they can get people to come and use their services rather than the big boy Facebook.