Summary:

Group video chat startup Rabbit wants to compete with Skype and Google+ Hangouts. But is it compelling enough to get users to install yet another app?

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Rabbit, the video group chat app that we covered back in December, launched its private beta test Thursday with an OS X app doubles as a screencasting tool. The app features a bunch of interesting new ideas, but is that enough to compete with Hangouts and other established offerings?

Rabbit’s biggest stumbling block could be one of its key assets: The San Francisco-based startup is banking on users to download a native application that is initially just available for OS X. The app makes it possible to have long video chat sessions while you’re doing other things on your PC, and also easily screencast parts of your desktop to other users.

4_Rabbit_Sharing_from_the_WebI was able to try this kind of functionality in a Rabbit session with company co-founder Stephanie Morgan last week, and liked how easy it was to watch a YouTube video together or even display snippets of my desktop during our conversation.

I also liked the idea of Rabbit as a social space: The app offers access to a number of public chat rooms, each of which hosts different group conversations, offering users the chance to switch back and forth between these conversations quickly. I could actually see companies using this to conduct virtual meetings that consist of small breakout sessions.

Still, at the end of the day, I’m not convinced that this will win over regular users, many of which seem to be just fine with the tools being offered to them today. And with internet giants like Google putting their weight behind group chat, I predict that Rabbit is going to face an uphill battle.

Users interested in testing out Rabbit can sign up on its website to be part of the private beta. You can also ping friends that already use Rabbit – each Rabbit use can invite an unlimited number of friends – or simply check out Rabbit’s (admittedly heavily stylized) promo video below:

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