As someone who sees Facebook mostly as a tool for free cross-continental communication and sharing experiences like travel, birthdays and enviably fun times with jealous friends and family far away, news that Facebook has added internet video calling to it’s offering is huge.
Back in the stone age before Skype, calls were very expensive and many a far-flung-lover or studying-abroad-child may have had to contend with eye-popping phone bills or just try and remember what their loved ones sound like, over email. Skype for mobile calling, for all it’s plus points and while it’s cheaper than a normal call, isn’t free, is it? So when Facebook announced on 15th January that it was launching ‘Graph Search’, VoIP providers everywhere must have sighed, and not with relief – free international calls are the stuff of Occupy Wall Street’s dreams. Graph Search is only available in the States so far as an add-on to its iOS Messenger app but if this initial roll-out is successful, why wouldn’t they broaden their horizons?
International VoIP would be a coup for Facebook who would indirectly profit from increased visibility, as required by their new advertising strategy, but the move could also potentially cripple Skype who have a paltry 45 million users, nothing compared to 1 billion Facebook-ers. Although Stateside users will be thrilled with these new developments, mobile bundles and contracts mean that most callers will have a certain amount of calls included in their local mobile tariff anyway, so the excitement is somewhat diminished for the average U.S. user. International calling is where service providers make the big bucks and if this suddenly became free, the impact on VoIP and other connection providers would be huge.
Wired.com reported on the pro’s and con’s of the new service and didn’t fail to mention that the process of accessing the free calls was ‘convoluted’ and the service is difficult to find in the first place. Hopefully when they export Graph Search to the rest of the world they’ll make the tweaks that the U.S./ Canada roll-out calls for. Then it will be free calls for us all! (We hope).