ED's note: Two technology stories on Wednesday suggested points that could indicate a trend in how we interact with each other electronically. In the news business, coincidences of that sort often call for us to look for a possible trend story.
Two random points don't make a trend, of course. It's up to a reporter to look at how they're interconnected, if at all, and how strongly. On Wednesday, the stories were Apple announcing the impending release of their next generation iPhone and iPad this coming fall, as Facebook announced they were adding a video chat feature to their ubiquitous social networking site.
Tribune business reporter Wailin Wong described the front page trend story that followed:
Video chatting is one of those technology trends that hasn't quite taken off, despite lots of buzz in the industry. But when big companies with a history of shaping consumer behavior start making serious efforts to promote mainstream adoption of video calling, it certainly catches the attention of the technology press.
Companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google are trying to bring down some of the barriers that have traditionally kept video chatting from becoming as popular as instant messaging or texting. On Wednesday, Facebook announced a partnership with Skype that allows consumers to do one-on-one video chats with their Facebook friends via the social network. This announcement follows the roll-out of Google+, the search company's new social network that includes a group video chat service within its "Hangouts" feature. Apple has FaceTime, a video chatting application that is enabled on the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, both of which have front-facing cameras.
Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg believes video chatting is symbolic of the kinds of applications that are made possible by big social networks. Facebook now has 750 million active users.
"The driving narrative for the next five years or so is not going to be about wiring up the world," Zuckerberg said at the Wednesday press event at Facebook headquarters. "It's about what kind of cool stuff you're going to be able to build...now that you have this wiring in place, this social infrastructure."
Is video chatting the killer feature that Facebook users have been awaiting? The next few years will determine whether Facebook and others have succeeded in bringing video calling to the mainstream. In the meantime, they'll be looking for even more new ways to help people connect.
-- Wailin Wong
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