There was a time when video calling was a big thing but today, it is easy for friends or colleagues to do virtual hang-outs, talk and collaborate on work.
This week, we look at four video-calling services, three of them free.
Price: $8.99 (approx. Rs. 475) per month
Skype has been around for a long time and all of us know about it. Now owned by Microsoft, not only does Skype allow you to make phone calls to each other over the Internet, it also allows you to make video calls. If you switch to Skype Premium, at $8.99 per month, you can now do multi-party video calls. The quality of the calls is great, but it limits you to making a call only from your PC. And only a premium account holder can initiate a call. If your friends want to call you as well, they also have to pay the premium rates. The great part about Skype is the fine video quality and also the easy management. You can also share your desktop and work together on files with those you are calling.
Google+ is a social media network just like Facebook with a quite a few things done differently. One of them is Hangout. On this, apart from having video chats with friends, you can create a "hangout" where people can join in. And you are all on a video call in a group. The best part is that you can broadcast your hangout live via Google's own YouTube. Google+ limits you to 10 participants in a hangout. Anyone can start one. You can also schedule a hangout and publish it as an event where people can join in. Virtual media conferences have turned so easy!
If you are a smartphone/tablet person, rest assured. A version of Google+ is also available for iOS (Apple) devices and, of course, Android devices that Googlers fancy. And you can initiate the hangout from any of these devices or join an existing hangout. Also, all you need is a web browser on your PC. You can be on a machine that runs Mac, Linux or Windows operating systems. No software needs to be installed. Cool!
Want more than 10 folks in your virtual group session? Get Zoom.us, then. It allows you to have 12 people and no new logins to be created if you have a Gmail or Facebook account. Download the software and you are ready to go. The Zoom.us application integrates with your facebook chat and you can invite people who are online on Facebook to do a video chat with you. Zoom’s software also works on iOS Devices, Windows and Mac PCs right now, and an Android version should be out soon. You can send your Zoom.us ID to your friends, and they can join in.
You can share your screen either in full or a specific application in focus with the video chat group so they can do what you are doing on your screen. You can top it up with a text chat on the side —with the group or with an individual. This must be good for collaborative work and teaching/tutoring. The amazing part about the Zoom application is that it auto-zooms into the person who is speaking, and if you are on an iPhone/iPad, the screen is optimised to show participants clearly without eating into the screen’s real estate. The only downside is that you don’t have a meeting schedule facility. You can always do that on email, right?
Like Zoom.us, Oovoo also allows you to get upto 12 friends for free, and it gives you an amazing feature that I really love — you can record a video chat and directly upload it to YouTube. But getting Oovoo going for the first time is time consuming and patience-testing. The free version allows ads in the video chat. You can upgrade to a paid version that allows you to have a video call without ads. It uses your Facebook account to create a login. Oovoo also has a Facebook application that allows you to add the “hangout” feature like Google+ to your Facebook account. You can join in video conferences from the Web, using a Windows or a Mac PC (No Linux support, though) or via mobile apps for the Android & iOS platforms. Though I like it that Oovoo can record and upload to YouTube, this is my least favourite video chat service, because logging in can sometimes really bug you. However, it also offers screen-sharing like Zoom.us and also lets you share files with each other, which is unique. The way it handles the screen space is nice. It shifts all the video calls to a right hand bar, and takes the main screen for the caller and or the screen that is being shared.