It’s time to take videochat seriously. Videochat a prime example of futuristic technology that would’ve seemed unimaginable 30 years ago but is currently available. You can have a decent-quality video phonecall with someone thousands of miles away in realtime – why hasn’t this technology taken off? The key lies in social media.
Now that Apple is taking on videochat with “Facetime” on iPhone 4 we can expect some major steps forward in the technology and hopefully in the popularity of this area of communication. Virtually all computers nowadays are equipped with webcams, but people are generally only using these to record video rather than to make live calls. Usually people blame this on the lack of quality and consistency in leading videochat programs like Skype, but in reality the quality is there, it’s just not being used. The problem with current videochat programs can be understood more deeply if you look at them in comparison with videochat’s predecessor: instant messaging.
The online plain of videochat currently looks almost exactly the way instant messaging used to. Sites like stickam and tinychat provide public video chatrooms as well as the ability to create private rooms, similar to the old aol chatrooms. Skype can be equated to AIM, the instant messaging program used ubiquitously for the past 6 or 7 years – at least by middle and high school students. But instant messaging has moved on; now almost all instant messaging dialogues take place over facebook chat, a huge change considering the past popularity of AIM. Skype has the same problem AIM did, it requires you to seek out your friends through their service and create a buddy list which is unique to Skype. Facebook Chat stole instant messaging away from AIM simply because every friend you could ever want to chat with is at your fingertips; you don’t have to find out their special username – you’re already friends with them. Considering the natural trend of tech it seems logical to say that we can expect videochatting to become easier, more reliable, and following these, more popular. The moment it’s possible to create a lightweight decent-quality videochat program within Facebook – expect Skype to disappear.