Facebook Launching HTML5 Skype App?

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Facebook Launching HTML5 Skype App?

I've griped for awhile about the lack of VoIP or video calling within Facebook and even pointed out some 3rd party Facebook VoIP "kludges", but none truly gained much traction. Well, tomorrow today, Facebook will be making two huge announcements. The first is that according to various sources, Facebook will be announcing  browser-based Skype video calling. The second is that Facebook will be announcing the release of Project Spartan, which is the codename for a an entirely HTML5-based platform, with the specific goal of reaching mobile users and in particular mobile Safari on the iPhone and iPad platforms. This would completely bypass Apples iTunes and allow Facebook to allow their own free or paid applications without Apple's approval process.

It got me thinking that perhaps it is no coincidence that Facebook is announcing Facebook Skype video calling on the same day they launch Project Spartan. Perhaps an HTML5 version of Skype tied directly into Facebook is coming tomorrow. This would be HUGE! Though, my guess it that it would only allow you to see your Skype buddies' presence (and Facebook friends' presence) in real-time within your mobile browser, but when you click to make a video call it launches the separate mobile Skype app to complete the voice/video call.

It might allow chatting with your Skype budding over HTML5, but I don't think HTML5 is quite ready for 2-way voice and video. (Though I'm looking forward to TMC's HTML5 conference to see where it's at.) Not to mention Skype uses a proprietary peer-to-peer mechanism for connecting voice and video calls that I doubt HTML5 can handle.

Further, if Skype were announcing a 100% HTML5 app, why would this only be part of the Facebook announcement? A HTML5 Skype app would work in any HTML5-compliant browser, which would be huge news for Skype. I would have expected my Skype contacts to have reached out to me and scheduled a briefing for something this big. Though I suppose it's possible they want to keep quiet about it. Maybe Microsoft, their new owner wants to make a big splash by combining HTML5 Skype news with Facebook's announcements.

Still, however Facebook connects to the Skype cloud - via HTML5 or by launching the mobile Skype app, this is big news. There are over 500 million "active" Facebook users and Skype's 663 million registers users, of which 42.2 million are average daily "active" users (2009 was last active users stat I could find). Imagine being able to see your friend's presence info and then chat, voice, or even video call them over 3G data or a WiFi connection. But the implications go deeper. Since everyone seems to be on Facebook, you wouldn't even need PSTN numbers any more. Facebook would act as the largest ENUM registry in the world mapping Facebook names to other Facebook names, PSTN numbers, and Skype usernames. Facebook would instantly own one of the largest phone networks in the world!

Of course, in order for this to work, Facebook would have to offer a new privacy setting - "friends" and "superfriends" (your 'real' friends and family). I get friend requests from people in my industry or fans of my blog and I accept them, but I wouldn't necessarily want them to be able to call me using Facebook. Basically, Facebook would have to copy Google+ and their "circle" concept, where you are able to share info or give permissions to your various circles, which can be friends, family, coworkers, business associates, customers, etc. Without this capability, Facebook will fail to offer a compelling VoIP and video conferencing capability. I for one am looking forward to the news today!

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