Yo Google, Skype – what about the web?

The big guys are duking it out again, and this time video chat is front and center. In the past few days Google unveiled Google+ with video “Hangouts”, Microsoft-owned Skype released the SkypeKit SDK and there is speculation that Facebook may announce next week it is bringing video chat to the social network.

There’s one thing missing in all of this. The web.

Google+ is surely a nice piece of work and Hangouts is great – and we love anything that makes video conversations more common – but these ‘new’ innovations are actually not new at all, they are alternatives to what we already have, just in a new location. They do nothing to help bring video chat to the web outside of the Hangout.

Opening up Skype via an SDK sounds great. It means more people with access to technology that helps add face-to-face communications to their web site or service, doesn’t it? Well, actually no. SkypeKit strictly forbids this. No one can use SkypeKit to add Skype to their website. It turns out that SkypeKit is great if you want to add video chat to your fridge, but not so much if you want to be able to talk about fridges with customers on your ecommerce site.

So with all this ‘innovation’, where is the web? What about the millions of developers and millions of websites who are trying to advance how they connect with their users?

Google, Skype and perhaps Facebook clearly believe, as we do, that face to face communication is a key part of human interaction. However, they are looking at video chat as a destination.

We don’t feel that the video chat itself is the destination. We think of it as a facilitator of real human interaction around whatever else you want to be doing, discussing or watching, wherever you are. Being able to take any website, application, piece of content, in fact any object on the web that can be the focus of shared interest – and use that object to gather people together and allow them to communicate face to face, there and then, in context – that is where we see huge opportunity.

Video chat is moving fast. Six months ago we first launched our platform and now we have more than 5,000 partners who have incorporated video chat into their web presences, resulting in millions of minutes of face to face communication happening every day. We continue to think that the unexplored – and unexploited – opportunity is to build face to face communication into the fabric of the web, helping developers and websites weave live video communications directly into their application, service or site.

This says to me that every corner of the entire web is a video chat destination and, given that, developers hold the key. Platform providers like TokBox do not have a monopoly on ideas for how people, sites and services will use video chat. Quite the opposite. If we give developers and websites easy-to-use and powerful tools, if we make it open, accessible and unrestricted, if we continue to push the quality bar forward, and then if we simply get out of their way, developers and websites will make amazing things happen.
Skype is a terrific service and Google+ looks great. They share one path to the future. For my part, I look forward to helping the next wave of developers explore all the others.