There are reports that Facebook and Skype will soon join forces–integrating the voice and video chat capabilities of Skype with the Facebook social networking platform. Such an alliance would be a challenge to Google, a value for business users, and would benefit both Facebook and Skype.
A post from AllThingsD suggests that when Skype 5.0 launches in the next couple weeks it will be accompanied by an announcement of a partnership and deep integration with Facebook. The alliance would connect Skype’s half a billion members with Facebook’s half a billion members (I am sure there is some significant overlap of the two memberships already) and enable seamless instant messaging, voice, and video chat between the two platforms.
The alliance of Facebook and Skype would pose a threat to Google, which recently integrated Google Voice VoIP calling into Gmail. Google has dabbled in, and struggled with, trying to adapt to the rise of social networking with Google Wave, Google Buzz, and the rumored Google Me. Turning the tables, though, a Facebook-Skype alliance could challenge Google as a communications platform and offer businesses an alternative to the array of Google services.
The primary lures of Google services for small and medium businesses have been ubiquitous availability from the cloud, and cost. When Google rolled out the new Google Voice service, more than a million free calls were placed in the first 24 hours. But, Facebook provides some unique benefits that make it more appealing in many ways as a business platform.
For one thing, Facebook has surpassed Google as the online destination where users spend the majority of their time online. Those users are co-workers, partners, suppliers, and customers, so it makes sense for businesses to spend time there as well. Facebook is still, first and foremost, a social network, but as it evolves it also makes more and more sense as a business and unified communications platform–providing opportunities for marketing, customer relations and support, and collaboration.
An alliance between Facebook and Skype would be a win-win for the two companies–enabling each to extend its sphere of influence and occupy a more prominent position for both consumers and businesses. The 10-way video chat capability introduced by Skype is ideally suited for a social network or collaborative environment like Facebook, and teaming up with Facebook would greatly expand Skype’s opportunities to generate revenue from its services.
Of course, the landscape could change significantly if Cisco buys Skype.