OoVoo is not a rare disease nor is it a trendy new foreign snack. What is OoVoo? It is a free video chat service whose major competitors are Skype and Google’s Hangout. You can use Oovoo to talk from mobile to computer or mobile to mobile and the software is cross-platform compatible (that means Mac & PC folks). Just as with Skype you need broadband, a mic and a webcam to make this all happen.
With free subscriptions you can chat with up to six of your peeps at once. With the paid version you can raise that to twelve. OoVoo experienced strong growth in 2011. In fact, in 2011 ten billion minutes of video usage were processed through their network. By January 2102 it had grown to one billion minutes in the month of January alone. Their technology is one of only two video conferencing services that were approved as secure enough to receive official endorsement by the House Administration Committee (Skype was the other).
But government workers are not the folks that have driven OoVoo’s popularity. Teens and those in their early twenties have been the largest growth factor for the service. Skype is seen as tired and old-fashioned by this demo – “it’s what your Dad uses to chat to his business colleagues online” expressed one user. OoVoo was one of the first to offer multi-user video chat and this seemed to have promoted its popularity amongst the young and hip.
A recent article in Forbes magazine pointed out that teens aren’t just using the service to gossip with one another. Some use the multi-person chat to organize group study jams and to not only show-off, but show-how to wear new hair and makeup styles. When teens get home they log into OoVoo immediately and stay logged in for hours. That way they are separate from their friends but not disconnected. Whether they are doing homework or doing something else, they are “always on”, open and ready to communicate. When one girl lost her TV privileges, a friend helped her keep track of her favorite show by pointing OoVoo at the TV screen. For the sake of grounded teens everywhere, hopefully parents won’t learn that taking away Internet privileges hits where it really hurts – by preventing teens from connecting with one another on social nets such as Facebook, for example.
Many heavy OoVoo users are also active Facebook users. But this points to where OoVoo will need to keep innovating if they want to compete. Already, Google’s Hangout allows users to video chat with up to ten people for free. What’s more, Hangout is already well integrated within Google+ and Google’s social net is predicted to experience record growth in 2012. Sandwiched in between two giants, Google and Skype (aka Microsoft) OoVoo has their work cut out for them if they want to hang onto their choice spot.