In a few weeks Facebook will join internet voice players such as Skype by offering voice chat. That’s right — Facebook phone service. You will sign up by installing a simple plug-in from Vivox, and away you go, chatting with Facebook friends.
Thank “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP), the fancy technical term for phone calls sent over the internet instead of the old public telephone networks. The revolution of VoIP is driven by a little pricing secret — your old phone company charges you for voice transmission based on time, but internet costs are tied to the amount of data transmitted. The difference is like that of a lawyer who charges you based on the good ideas he provides instead of by the hour. Since the actual data sent in a phone call is relatively low, internet calls are exponentially cheaper than old-school phone minutes, and service providers can give it away practically for free.
Finally, human networks out of the office?
The Facebook voice service has several hooks designed to make it scale in adoption — it will include free dial-in numbers to set up conference calls, and Vivox is making its system available to all other third-party developers so they can add voice to their Facebook plug-ins. Players of those dreadful Mobster/Farmville games on Facebook can soon talk with their fellow gamers. Mashable reports Facebook is working on a video version, too.
Play it forward and the future will give you video conferencing standard on every computer or handset, as cheap as water from a spigot. Telecommuting will finally take off. Ad agencies could form using virtual communities of the best talent around the globe. Businesses will create partnerships quickly without plane flights or time-intensive proposals. Teens will go to college without moving away from home, saving room and board. As the surge in cheap video transmission erodes wireless revenues, companies such as AT&T will need to innovate more rapidly in product design and services to defend their customer base. Driven by this competition, mobile phones get exponentially sexier, adding new features. And marketers, faced with a vast increase in video inventory, will finally work on one-to-one personalization to make their messages break through the content supply overload.
All of which means that by 2015 you, with a tiny glass handset, will video-conference in the pizza delivery guy, who in turn remembers exactly how much you love double pepperoni.
Image: 2 Dogs.