Rabbit group video chat launches for Mac in closed beta, challenges Google Hangouts

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You’re at a party and you’re talking to your group of friends when you catch a snippet of another conversation that sounds relevant to your interests, so you eavesdrop for a couple of minutes before joining the conversation. Meanwhile, in another corner of the room, a group of friends are huddled together watching a cute cat video on YouTube. Now imagine that everyone at the party is in a different room, in front of their MacBooks. This is the idea behind Rabbit, a new group video chat service that launched for Mac OS X in closed beta today. 

It’s sort of like a Google+ Hangouts, where multiple people can video chat together, but Rabbit takes the experience one step further by allowing an unlimited number of people to video conference together at one time. If the thought of talking to a large group of people all at once terrifies you, fear not. The application allows you to chat with a small group of people within that larger group – just like you would at an in-person party. It even lets you “hover” over another conversation to listen in before speaking up.

Rabbit also aims to take screen sharing beyond stuffy webinar PowerPoint Presentations and make it fun again. During any video chat, users can share part of their screen or the whole screen, allowing for group streaming media viewings, so you can watch The Walking Dead and talk about it at the same time with fellow fans. 

Without a doubt, Rabbit is a very ambitious application that wants to change the way we chat. Instead of planning an 8 p.m. Skype call, Rabbit is designed to be always on in the background, much like an instant messaging client. Users receive a notification when friends sign on or sign off and when they want to initiate a video chat with you. 

Rabbit’s got a long road of it, especially with the 600-pound Google Hangouts in the corner, but the creators are working to make adoption as easy as possible by letting users sign in with their Facebook account and giving beta testers an unlimited number of invites to share with their friends. 

Speaking of Rabbit’s beta testing, it’s closed right now, but you can request an invite from the site www.letsrabbit.com. Once you get invited, invite your friends and start chatting. It’s designed for Mac OS X 10.7 and higher, so you’ll want to make sure you’re running Lion or Mountain Lion. 

While you’re waiting for your beta test invite, check out the video Rabbit released below.

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