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The Social Media Wars Turn Hot

Forget the browser wars. Social media is the new hot zone. A week after Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) introduced its Google+ social platform, Facebook fired back yesterday with a video messaging service built on Skype.

The idea is simple and in many ways compelling. Choose a contact from your list of friends and click on the video icon in the upper right corner of their page. Here’s a closer look at how it works. As you’ll see, there isn’t much difference between initiating a call and starting a text chat:

Skype and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) stand to be the big winners here, since it’s Skype technology being used to power conversations and Mr. Softy, as owner, gets to collect whatever spoils come from the arrangement.

But if you’re Google, don’t you also have to love how quickly you’ve turned the tables on your chief rival? Google+ includes a video chatting service called Hangouts where it’s possible to visually (ahem) “hang out” with as many Google+ connections you can find.

To be fair, video calling isn’t new. Skype has had it for years, as has Vonage (NYSE: VG  ) . Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , meanwhile, has a Mac-specific service called FaceTime while 8x8 (Nasdaq: EGHT  ) has built a small business telephony suite that includes video conferencing, voice mail, call forwarding, and just about anything else you can think of.

So why do Hangouts and Facebook Video Calling matter? Pervasiveness. More people are connected via Facebook and Google services than any of the alternatives you see above. More friends mean more interactions, and more interactions feed a desire for more interactive features, such as video calling.

Battle of the social network stars
The techie in me enjoys seeing these two titans tussle. But as an investor, I’m equally aware that what happens in social media matters a great deal. Every time analog media such as TV and telephony goes digital in connected networks such as these, analog advertising -- i.e., broadcasting untargeted, impersonal messages to a largely uninterested world -- bleeds a little more.

Care to learn more about how social media and the cloud computing movement? We’ve made it easy with this free video report. View it now and you’ll walk away with a winning pick from our Motley Fool Rule Breakers scorecard and a better understanding of how the Internet is reshaping entire industries. Click here now to watch the video -- it’s 100% free.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of 8x8, Apple, and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he’s known as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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