Do we really need any more ways to connect with people? Are we not sufficiently catered for already with a plethora of instant communication networks for us to talk with whoever we want to – in a way we want to? Well, according to Facebook (and Google), the answer is a resounding No.
Mark Zuckerberg last week launched a new-look Facebook Chat, which now allows for Group Chat but all the headlines went to the eye catching video-calling feature. Though how eye-catching this feature really is, remains to be seen.
Facebook video-calling powered by Skype is essentially all about convenience. It is the ease of use of this new feature which will be its biggest selling point, but once you get beyond that, does it really offer anything new?
First off, lets look at how you go about getting the feature installed. Facebook claimed at the press conference that installation was a quick and easy process that would take less than 30 seconds, no matter what system and broadband connection you were using. A bold claim.
A claim however that seemed to be backed up, when we managed to download the Java plug-in needed to activate video-calling within 15 seconds and had it up and running within a minute. It all seemed very easy and straight forward, which is key to making any new feature on a social network appealing to the masses. You don't even need to have Skype installed on your computer to allow this to work. However having spotted a few tweets over the weekend about problems installing the plug-in we decided to try it on another computer to see if it would be as easy.
Initially we used a MacBook Pro (2010) running Mac OS X 10.5.8 with Firefox 5, and had no issues, however we ran into trouble when we tried it out on an older laptop. Using a 2008 MacBook running Mac OS X 10.4.11 and using Firefox 3.6.18 we were unable to set up video-calling. Having visited the www.facebook.com/videocalling site and followed the instructions, we got an error message saying an error had occurred. When we clicked the Try Again button, a .jar file was downloaded to our desktop. When we ran the program a progress bar appeared but soon another error message appeared stating: "Video calling has encountered an error during installation. Please try again later"
Despite numerous attempts we were unable to install the plug-in. We tried using Safari but got a similar result and since the laptop had a version of Mac OS X which Chrome doesn’t support, we couldn’t try it on that browser. Looking at the Facebook Help Center, the only explanation we could find was that Facebook suggests using the latest versions of any browser and as a result older systems will not be supported. If this is the case, it could curb the amount of people who will be able to use the feature, though for most people using newer versions of the browsers, the system should work fine.