A research report from the Strand Consult says adding a Skype-like app is a logical next step for Facebook, and it may be able to succeed where Google and Microsoft/Skype have failed. Facebook has the obvious advantage of a nearly billion member user base and built-in ways to collect fees for VOIP services, but could this be one more distraction from its core platform and its need to demonstrate consistent ad revenue growth an a viable mobile strategy?
1. Plenty of people, especially outside North America, have never heard of VOIP, let alone use it. As such, Facebook wouldn’t be competing against Skype and Google Voice, but introducing a brand new feature to its one billion users.
This makes for a beautiful opportunity: the risk isn’t that people won’t use VOIP; it’s that they won’t use Facebook’s VOIP. In other words, the marketplace already exists; it’s a question of whether Facebook can hack together the technology.
2. Is this a distraction? No. Despite Facebook’s flock of failures—ranging from Beacon to Offers to Places—none of these has really hurt the social network’s growth or reputation. Instead, taking a crack at VOIP squares nicely with Facebook’s motto to “move fast and break things.”
3. Facebook’s actions since its IPO evince a hungry vigilance about revenue. In this mindset, and especially with its stock down 50%, Facebook doesn’t need to overtake Skype; it just needs to add another revenue stream.
Addendum (8/30/2012): Success!