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Nervous Facebook Likes Skype. So What?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has at least one lesson to learn from Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs: When introducing something new, underpromise and overdeliver. Zuckerberg made the big mistake of teasing an "awesome" announcement this week. It ended up being that Skype was now integrated into Facebook, which was already a poorly held secret.

Nothing else during the presentation was particularly surprising, either. This was an attempt to steal attention from Google (GOOG) and its new Google+ social networking system. Zuckerberg would have been better off without the hype.

Billions and billions
It was hard to tell whether Zuckerberg was invoking Carl Sagan or McDonald's in his opening, as he tried to mathematically explain the complexity of social networks and users sharing 4 billion things every day. The ultimate audience, Facebook customers, were probably more interested in figuring out how to successfully import a new profile image -- or tighten privacy settings.

It's not even as though the Skype integration was a surprise, as rumors first arose last fall. Given that people could already chat one-on-one in text on the site, adding voice and video seemed a natural. And so it was. Facebook also redesigned its chat system and added group chat. Earthshaking? Nope. In fact, the company has dropped feature and design changes at least as large without much in the way of introduction or explanation.

Will people use the Skype integration? Absolutely, and it will causes some angst for Google because the chat company is about to become part of Microsoft (MSFT) -- which, of course, also owns part of Facebook. The partnership could even ramp up Skype's already considerable customer base of 170 million, as Facebook now has 750 million users.

That doesn't mean many of those 750 million people are going to care much that Facebook also wants to partner with third-party app vendors. Zuckerberg even took a swipe at Google by talking about "major Internet companies who try to do everything themselves." Clearly he hasn't used the third-party apps integrated into Chrome browser or Google Apps. Ah, well, never mind.

One remark did stick: "I think you're going to see all these companies ... build on top of social infrastructure that already exists." Given the different ways that Facebook and Google approach social networking, it may be true that social networking is becoming another collection of ecosystems, like smartphones and mobile communications. In that case, yes, they'll build on top of existing social infrastructure -- each and every one that promises some profit.


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