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Facebook is a social network, yes, but it is also a communication tool. Which is why it makes sense to add "voice" to the platform via a deal with Skype.
Facebook is a social network - a set of tools that have been put together to enable friends and acquaintances to share their thoughts, ideas, events, experiences and questions. In effect, these tools and connections make Facebook a communication tool.
Need to tell people where you are? Facebook can do this. Need to ask friends if they are free for a party at the weekend? Facebook will do this. Want to send your friends photos of the wedding you went to? Yep, Facebook will do this.
Facebook is also a communication network, a way of talking to people you know, sharing with people you know and hearing from people you know. We are bombarded with statistics telling us that it is replacing texts and replacing emails; whatever the truth and whatever the statistics, people are turning to Facebook for things they would've previously said through other mediums.
They are using it as a replacement for more traditional text-based communications, and are able to augment this with photos and event invites.
However, to date, the social network has been less successful at replacing real-time communications. Facebook Chat has always trailed behind other messenger services, and voice has escaped it altogether.
In fact, voice communications would add a real and new dimension to the social network. Imagine being able to share photos with people as you talk to them, or being able to check if friends are online, and willing to talk, and then calling them directly through the same site. Voice communications would add another dimension to Facebook and would really distinguish it from other social networks. And this is why a deal with Skype makes sense.
The beauty of Facebook, and indeed of all social networks, is that they are connections of friends who want to share with each other. They are distinct from online communities, where people with the same interests, questions and concerns gather. They are actually an extension of your address book, but with additional tools and facilities to change how you interact with friends. It makes sense that Facebook would add and integrate voice communications to this mix. With this development, Facebook can really start to rival other communication networks.
To date, we have seen Facebook take traffic from emails and from texts. But shifting communications from traditional voice to Facebook would be a more significant change. It would mean that the social network starts to take on more traditional methods of communication and more traditional competitors.
With voice communications, Facebook will have properly grown-up.