CONTACT Viber combines video chat, social media - Media Salad

“Free calls, text and picture sharing with anyone, anywhere!”

Viber, the fast-growing mobile messaging application, especially means the “anyone, anywhere” part of its sales pitch. The increasingly popular communication platform, bought earlier this year for about $900 million by Japanese e-commerce and Internet conglomerate Raukuten, has launched Public Chats, giving its 209 million users the ability to broadcast to the world.

Think of the new Viber functionality as video chat meets social media. Viber’s Public Chats are live streams of conversations that are open for a follower to watch — but not necessarily participate in. Users will be able to chime into a Public Chat only if its associated with an account in their contacts, and their comments will be added to the public stream.

Viber isn’t granting the ability to initiate and lead Public Chats to all its users just yet. To build interest, the company is seeking a stable of celebrities and interesting people — including taxi drivers, prominent bloggers and world-recognized scientists — willing to make their Public Chats, well, very public. The company invites anyone who thinks their chats are worthy of such exposure to e-mail publicchats@viber.com.
While we haven’t engaged in a Viber PublicChat, we do like the service. Here’s a quick overview:

How does it work?
Viber is really easy to use. Downloading the app is quick, simple and requires no registration. Viber uses your phone number as your identification — which means when you download the app, you can scan your contact list to see which one of your friends also has it. Communication between Viber users is free. Viber is accessible through wireless and 3G networks.

What if I want to talk to someone who doesn’t have Viber?
This is where ViberOut comes in. According to Viber’s website, www.viber.com, “ViberOut lets Viber users from all over the world make calls at low rates from smartphones to landlines or mobile numbers, even when they are not Viber numbers.” This is especially useful for people wanting to communicate with friends and family who use only landlines. The United States’ current rate is about 2 cents per minute.
This Sounds Good, But Does IT Actually Work?

In our experience, yes — and really well. Viber is available on devices running Windows, iOS, and Android platforms and on WindowsPhone, Blackberry and Nokia models. The sound quality is clear. Pictures and videos can also be sent through Viber — as can “stickers” that make communication fun. A collection of free stickers comes standard with the app, and there are also plenty more available to purchase from Viber’s sticker market.