Sean Parker and Google are both pushing group video chat products pretty hard right now. Parker’s latest product is Airtime, and Google’s is the Google+ Hangout. The idea, it seems, is that video conference calls offer a better, more social experience.
But based on my totally unscientific research and observations about how I communicate with friends and family, phone calls are pretty much out, as are video chats. Text messaging is the preferred method of communication; I really only video chat with friends and family who are abroad, and because of time differences, these happen pretty infrequently. Phone calls, and voicemail especially, are seen as almost rude impositions among my friends. So I have serious doubts about Airtime and Google+ Hangouts.
But the main reason I’m skeptical that my peer group will adopt video chat is because of an app called I’d Cap That, which my friends have wholeheartedly embraced. The app adds a random sort of edgy, and perhaps NSFW, caption to a user’s photo. (The new paid version, released today, allows for custom captions.) See the I’d Cap That Twitter page for a sampling of captions.
This is how the communication chain tends to work with this app: One person sends an embarrassing photo with a sophomoric caption to a group of friends and laughter ensues, followed by a flood of group text messages. It’s playful social interaction that is kept in a tight circle of friends and not shared over larger social networks.
And judging by the ads Google aired for its hangouts, this is pretty much the playful kind of group exchange Google had hoped to foster via its video chat platform. The main difference of course is that it’s all done over text, so interactions are quick and easy.