Early Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) investor Sean Parker has launched a social video chat service alongside his old Napster partner, Shawn Fanning. While the launch event of Parker’s Airtime did not include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg among the many other celebrities, the close association between the social network and this new service is already making quite the buzz.
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“We are building a network service very different from a consumer software product,” Parker said at the launch. “It’s not something you can hold in your hand; the value is all in the connections between users.”
Facebook’s 900 million users, of course, are sold on that very principle. Airtime has been built on the social network’s platform, using Facebook Connect as a way for users to log in and allowing for video chats between Facebook friends. The function is resonant of instant video chatting built into Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Gmail and Google+, and something that Facebook chat had been strangely missing.
However, Airtime also lets a user video chat with strangers, though Parker assures that requiring a Facebook login will bring in the safety and security that something like ChatRoulette notably lacked. Parker says the new service also includes facial-recognition software and a ranking system that scores people based on their interactions.
Airtime also takes users’ interests into account before connecting them with other people who share them. This function would, potentially, give Facebook more accurate data on its users and can help it grow its advertising efforts, a major goal for the social network as its earnings become public knowledge. In effect then, Airtime can live off Facebook’s massive popularity and, in return, hand the social network fodder highly valuable to advertisers.
Airtime does have competition other than Google, of course. Facebook announced a partnership with Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype last year and later added Facebook video calling to Skype’s desktop apps, but on Tuesday at his launch, Parker referred to Skype as “archaic technology.” Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) inbuilt video calling service, FaceTime, has been fairly successful, too.
Airtime will be available on the web as well as iOS and Android apps.
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