VoIP and Facebook: Is a Marriage Inevitable?
If there are two technologies that define how we communicate with friends and family online, they are Facebook and VoIP. Facebook has one billion users and is still growing. Five hundred and sixty million people have tried the most popular VoIP service, Skype. And, yet, the two aren't as integrated as one might think.
How Are They Connected?
Many VoIP systems have some form of Facebook integration, but it's similar to the Facebook integration that you'll find on websites or LinkedIn. It's mostly a method that allows you to more easily find your friends on the service, instead of being tightly integrated with Facebook itself.
Facebook does have an integrated VoIP system of a sort. It's called Bobsled, and it’s a product of T-Mobile that you'll need to download. Once installed, it's possible to use your existing Internet connection and computer microphone to make calls to friends via Facebook.
But you'd be forgiven if you didn't realize this existed, since Facebook doesn't promote it; it doesn't even mention Bobsled on its help page. In fact, Bobsled's own page on Facebook doesn't even mention its VoIP with Facebook capability.
Where's the "Call" Button?
So, why doesn't Facebook simply have a Call button next to Like and Share?
There are a few reasons for that.
- VoIP uses bandwidth. Even the most popular services are not free of charge, and Facebook has shown a reluctance to charge users for services. Although Facebook does have “Facebook Credits,” the majority of its money comes from advertising and collecting user data. Facebook simply may not be able to pay to give its one billion users access to VoIP. This also, of course, assumes that only one user will be calling at a time. If a Facebook page for a business had a call button, it could be as busy as any standard call center depending on the product.
- Control issues. How often do you realize that there's somebody on Facebook Chat who is simply not going to leave you alone, even if you're politely hinting that you have things you need to do. So users would need to be able to tightly control who could call them, which isn't technically impossible, but can be demanding.
- Finally, the simplest reason of all: Some users may not have computers that are entirely up to the job.
Will Facebook Invest in VoIP in the Future?
It's likely. Certainly the company is focused on connecting its users, and the existence of Bobsled shows that it has some interest in doing so. It may, of course, eventually have no choice. Google, for example, has integrated its Google Plus and Google Voice services, and while so far that hasn't communicated an enormous strategic advantage, Facebook is looking closely at Google Plus. We won't be surprised if a few years down the line, you will see a Call button, just perhaps not for free.
Where does this leave businesses? For now, most VoIP systems will integrate with Facebook in terms of finding friends on the network, which will likely be useful for small business owners. But keep an eye on Facebook's moves over the next few years: You may be able to integrate your VoIP and social networking sooner than you think.