Rob Glaser — founder, chair and former CEO of RealNetworks — hopes all eyes will soon be on an app developed by his new company,SocialEyes, which is designed to bring video chat to Facebook. It requires no download or setup — users simply log in with their Facebook account.
Like all social media services, SocialEyes can be used both publicly, for groups organized around common interests, and privately — but this time the experience is not about static text and pictures.
“SocialEyes takes the social networking experience to the next level through face-to-face communication or via video messages,” said Rob Williams, cofounder and CEO.
Both Williams and Glaser are Microsoft veterans who went on to RealNetworks. Their latest project recently raised US$5.1 million in venture capital.
“SocialEyes brings together four powerful elements for the first time — the Facebook social graph, no-download Flash video, a group system that lets people easily connect with other people in meaningful ways, and a Twitter-like feed,” Glaser said.
Glaser and company are bucking an historical trend, said Andy Abramson, CEO of social media consultancy Comunicano.
“Video is not new to Facebook, but it has never taken off,” Abramson told TechNewsWorld.
Though “tilted towards the 18-35 demographic, who tend to be the most active users of social media today,” SocialEyes “is designed to be easy for anyone to pick up and use,” said company spokesperson April Conyers, who added that market analysis prompted the app’s focus on video.
“We think the market for video communications is set to explode,” Conyers told TechNewsWorld. “We are not currently monetizing the service, however, as we are still focused on building something that people will use and love.”
Money will come later, as the platform expands and partnerships form, Conyers explained. Ease of use makes it a prime competitor for tele-video and Skype-type communications.
“I think the market for video calling/chat will only grow due to Skype and Cisco, both of whom are making major pushes,” Comunicano’s Abramson observed.
“Megatrend” is how Tom Toperczer, VP of marketing at video and online conferencing software firm Nefsis, describes the space SocialEyes occupies.
“Full visual connections are better in many respects,” Toperczer told TechNewsWorld.
Eyes on the Prize
Glaser’s track record at both Microsoft and Real “brings enormous credibility” to SocialEyes, Comunicano’s Abramson told TechNewsWorld. “As someone who launched a very successful 1.0-era Internet pioneer, he falls in the ‘visionary’ bucket. He was pushing an idea — streaming media — well before almost anyone else.”
How Glaser performed at Real could be a preview of his potential success at SocialEyes. His early record was mixed.
“Real was a viable threat and competitor to Microsoft,” Abramson said. But the threat diminished as Flash, the mp3 format, Microsoft and Apple gradually took market share.
“I don’t think this play is the same, however,” Abramson explained. “As the Facebook crowd grows older, with the idea of friends and families using Facebook as their communications hub, SocialEyes will get some traction.”
Beyond the Wall
“Interoperability” represents SocialEyes’ allure — and a basic hurdle, Abramson added. “If they can solve lack of interoperability with other video communications platforms, and get outside the Facebook walled garden, it has a good shot.”
Both within and beyond the wall, collaboration is “hot right now and getting hotter,” Abramson said, making Glaser’s timing good.
“FaceBook lacks multiparty communications and collaboration elements,” he explained. “This brings that one step closer to reality.”
The next step may be to bring aboard “video-savvy users that want business-grade video conferencing solutions,” Nefsis’ Toperczer told TechNewsWorld.
In the corporate world, however, businesses will want and need more than SocialEyes currently provides, from greater security, to more collaboration tools for productive meetings, he explained.
If it makes a corporate splash, SocialEyes could become a tasty acquisition target for firms like Skype, Cisco or Logitech, “which bought another video-conferencing company.” Abramson explained.