A stream of content (News Feed), a +1 button (Like), a photos service... yadda, yadda, yadda: Google+ doesn’t bring a whole lot of new stuff to the social networking table that isn’t already provided by its primary competitor, Facebook.
There is, however, one thing that should make Facebook feel a little jealous: Hangouts.
Google Hangouts lets any user create a video conference for any one or few of his or her friend circles. You create the Hangout, and wait until somebody joins in. Up to ten people can join the conference, which can make for some pretty fun and spontaneous get-togethers with friends. Hence, the name “Hangouts.”
The service gives Google+ a huge advantage and, alone, could compel tons of users to stray from Facebook. Video is a very powerful weapon on the Web, and video chatting with friends is even more valuable. For how long will Google have the upperhand?
Not long, if the latest rumors are to be believed.
Until now, users of the social networking site could chat one-to-one over Facebook IM or, at most, with many users at once in Group Chat. But there is no official feature for video chat at all.
Next week, however, Facebook is hosting a launch event (on Wednesday, July 6), and a TechCrunch source says that the new product launching is in-browser video chat, via a partnership with Skype. And based on the press invitation above, that would make a lot of sense.
Details of the service are entirely unclear at this point. Will only one-to-one video chats be supported, or will Facebook go all out and match Google’s multi-person video conferencing? Will users be required to have Skype accounts to use the service? Will Facebook-to-Facebook video chat work inside Skype’s desktop clients? We’ll have to wait to find out.
But if the rumors are true, then just like that, Google+ has lost one key advantage. (Nobody said toppling over a social networking site with 700 million members and counting was easy.)