by Jordan Crook, techcrunch.com
April 16th 2013
Oovoo has been on a tear of late, tripling its user base in the past year with Jay Samit at the wheel as president. We brought him into the studio to chat about Oovoo’s growth, the video chatting space and forthcoming features on the Oovoo platform. He was surprisingly forthcoming.
He hinted at a feature that would let users preview how they look before they begin a call, explaining that the number one reason why most people don’t video chat is because they don’t like how they look. After previewing your looks, you can also apply a filter to make you look even better. “Think Instagram,” he said.
Samit also hinted at a video voicemail-type feature, which would let users enjoy video chat in an asynchronous way rather than having everyone participate in realtime. After all, not having someone to chat with is a pretty big deterrent in the world of video chat.
The company has almost crossed 75 million users, and Samit attributes much of Oovoo’s incredible growth to the global shift toward mobile. And to him, it’s not just about being available across multiple platforms, as Oovoo is with Facebook, Mac, PC, iOS and Android. It’s also about having the very best quality application at the right value.
Since Oovoo isn’t peer-to-peer like its biggest competitor Skype, the app performs much differently from a user perspective, and thus the usage is quite different from one app to the other.
“Skype was a great technology 10 years ago,” said Samit. “Since we host our service in the cloud, we adjust bandwidth to particular users’ constraints and use 60 percent less battery.”
Because of this, says Samit, users don’t go to Oovoo to triage scheduled international calls or have professional meetings like they do with Skype. Instead, Oovoo users tend to skew much younger and typically leave the service running in the background, chatting with groups of friends as they do other things.
This struck a chord with me, since video chat has never really taken off the way it was expected for that very reason. Though people are used to being able to multi-task on the phone, that freedom doesn’t translate to video chat, and so people tend to steer clear. I asked Samit why Oovoo users feel different, and he said it comes down to age.
“Younger people don’t have the same ingrained habits as older generations,” said Samit. “Voice communication was only a habit after Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone, but for thousands of years before that we were visual people. Since younger generations have used text more than calling, they don’t have the same habits as older people and feel more comfortable in the visual environment of video chat.”