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Skype group video calling becomes free (skype.com)
362 points by Siyfion on Apr 28, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

I don't understand why Microsoft took so long to do this. If they had been faster after Google Hangouts, it never would have gained a beachhead. Xbox One could easily find a secondary market as a conference room device; a Microsoft version of Airplay and Chromecast (ideally open to Mac and general web as well) would take more engineering, but would have been awesome too.

> If they had been faster after Google Hangouts, it never would have gained a beachhead.

That's why Microsoft took so long to do this. They had little incentive to do so until others did, and even when the writing on the wall was clear, they still faced the innovator's dilemma.

Innovator's dilemma matters if you're actually making money from your current product. Skype isn't in any way material to Microsoft's revenues, but is an important mindshare property (and could tie in to other Microsoft tools; integration on WP and Windows desktops, etc.)

I'm not sure how important of a mindshare property it is. I would guess most users don't even realize that Microsoft owns Skype.

I beg to differ. Nowadays Skype is always inquiring people to convert their account to a Microsoft Account! The "Metro"/"Modern" version of Skype for Windows 8 even requires a Microsoft account.

Well, following that logic, Facebook owns thousands of web sites because they require FB account to login.

It seems obvious to us, but we are an exception. Most of the people just don't care.

The vast majority of those people had a facebook account anyway. Using Skype to push Microsoft accounts gets people to create MS accounts that they didn't have. I imagine there's a selected-by-default checkbox in that process along the lines of "Send me exciting news an announcements about Microsoft products!"


Even if the mindshare isn't directly valuable to Microsoft, it's valuable to Google. Keeping Google from getting it should have been more important than squeezing every last penny out of Skype.

"I don't understand why Microsoft took so long to do this."

Skype had free video group calls long before Google Hangouts even existed. If I remember correctly, they forced their users to pay for it a few months or a year after Google Hangouts launched, which was a really stupid move which surely helped Google's product a lot.

Group video was only free for a very limited time on the beta only on the Windows application. It became a paid product over a year before Google Hangouts launched.

I think that happened when they centralised it.

I don't know either. I've been using Google Hangouts for the last few months, and those so easily could have been Skype chats instead if that was available. They let Google get so far along with this.

I hope open protocols will catch up already. XMPP/Jingle has user side multiplexing for a while (MUJI), but it requires decent bandwidth. It's a deferred XEP for some reason though. Also, most clients lack support for it. Server side multiplexing wasn't standardized for some reason, so XMPP servers didn't come up with anything common so far.

Skype remains just another proprietary walled garden communication network which in addition can't be trusted. It should be avoided.

I think it is amazing how little strategy and disruption there seems to be in the industry.

My dad is mostly retired, he rents out his office, but his secretary still comes into the office one afternoon a week. I didn't want to stress her out by asking her to learn new technology, but the phone was used only an hour or two a month. I ported the same number he'd had for a few decades to Google Voice, and attached an ObiHai box so that she can use a regular phone, rather than needing to understand why messages are in Google Voice but outgoing calls are placed using Google Chat, or use a special earpiece plugged into the computer.

Anyway, over the two years that it worked it saved a couple thousand dollars that would have been spent to use the phone for about 30 hours. Since Google Voice will no longer be compatible with ObiHai devices this month (moving away from XMPP), I ported the number to Anveo, which is no longer free, but still only $40/year.

Both Microsoft and Google should offer small businesses packaged services where you bring your own internet service, then buy telephone plus email using your own domain name from them for a flat fee. Something like $200-400/year for 1-3 users would find an enormous market. Afterwards, they could sell office suites, billing/accounting software, scheduling software as add-ons.

Right now it is needlessly complicated for people who have minimal communication needs, and don't care about technology, to avoid huge costs. It's kind of absurd to consider how little service someone like a barber or a shop owner gets after paying fees that make up a significant part of their operating costs.

> Both Microsoft and Google should offer small businesses packaged services where you bring your own internet service, then buy telephone plus email using your own domain name from them for a flat fee.

Microsoft is focusing on the enterprise, because that's where the money is. For example, CERN is using Microsoft Lync as an IP PBX, using the Polycom CX300. It looks like a desk telephone and works like a desk telephone. It can even retrieve voicemail. But it plugs in to a USB port and uses Lync for calling. https://espace.cern.ch/mmmservices-help/UnifiedCommunication...

It's a lot simpler to sell to CERN and pick up 2500 users, than to sell to 2500 different barbershops. For one thing, CERN has competent IT staff who won't be costing Microsoft a lot of money in support calls.

As for Google, they seem to actively be avoiding telephony. For example, Gizmo5 used to offer SIP connectivity, and then Google got rid of Google Voice forwarding to Gizmo5. And now the elimination of XMPP and the option to use Obihai. Even Google Fiber was set up as a double-play instead of a triple-play: they'll sell you Internet and television, but not phone.

I get the feeling that Google wants to make absolutely sure that it is not regulated as a telephony provider, with all the hassles around 911, service availability, being able to call high-cost rural exchanges, etc.

won't be costing Microsoft a lot of money in support calls

I think you've got it backwards, there's nothing Microsoft loves more then support calls because that's where their real cash cow is: charging enterprise monstrous yearly support fees.

In other words, enterprise support contracts are making Microsoft money -- not costing it money.

Consumers and small businesses aren't nearly as willing to open their wallets for support. The best customer is one who pays the annual fee and never calls in for support.

Ooma is also rather cheap for telephony. Once you bought the device, you only pay taxes basically (which is something like $3.80 a month).

Most people I know who have such small business phone needs will just use their mobile phone.

What do you think of COLIBRI[1]? Does it seem like it could address this problem adequately? Does it have a chance of getting traction beyond just Jitsi?

[1] https://jitsi.org/colibri/

That's interesting, and it's about server side multiplexing. But I have no clue why it's not accepted as official XEP yet. In general, the progress of XMPP standards seems very slow.

How's XMPP mobile nowadays? OTR?

Depends on the client. A major hole is Telepathy, which lacks end to end encryption support, so all mobile clients based on that (Sailfish one, Plasma Active one and etc.) are lacking it. Jitsi (which is in Java and WIP in alpha stage for Android) supports OTR and ZRTP. There are clients like Xabber which support just OTR on Android (none of them support Jingle and ZRTP). Not sure about the situation on other mobile OSes.

I hope TextSecure/Whisper will get to have video-calling, too, soon. People need to stop using insecure platforms like Skype that make mass spying so easy.

Video calling in Jitsi works fantastically right now. There's little excuse for people still using proprietary video conferencing platforms.

I love Jitsi. Since the latest version even the remote desktop sharing on my ubuntu systems is working.

It is funny how you say 'right now'. Jitsi tends to be not that stable from time to time.. so I have the same feeling. :)

Advice: Use IPv6. If either party can not get a native connection look for a free tunnel provider. Start jitsi with -6 as parameter and it will prioritise v6 connections. This fixed all kinds of 'nat-nat-nat' setups that some friends are forced into. (Make sure the implications of having a public address are understood.)

Another wonderful thing about jitsi is the availability for multiple platforms and crypto support for otr or zrtp. There is also a video bridge is bandwidth is a concern on video calls.

Does anybody know an skype like echo system for sip or xmpp? Perhaps even with crypto and video support?

The fact that you think people are making excuses to use proprietary video conferencing platforms (or other communication platforms) is why things like TextSecure and Jitsi will likely never take off. You're really just making excuses for the TextSecure and Jitsi teams.

For the most part, no one cares whether they're using something that is open source or proprietary. Most people don't event care much about abstract concepts like "security" or "encryption" when it comes at the cost of their real goal -- communicating with family and friends. Once some secure platform is as easy to use[0] and as prevalent[1] as Skype or Google Hangouts, maybe people will start using them.

[0] A sibling post suggests setting up Jitsi with IPv6 and starting the program with the -6 parameter to fix some connection issues. I would hope it's clear why needing to use certain command line parameters and understanding "the implications of having a public address" to use a chat program makes it a non-starter for a vast amount of people.

[1] As it turns out, advertising and marketing matter! You can't have a popular chat platform if no one knows you exist!

> For the most part, no one cares whether they're using something that is open source or proprietary. Most people don't event care much about abstract concepts like "security" or "encryption"

You say it as if it's universal and intractable. Awareness has jumped since Snowden's revelations began, AFAICT, and I've read several places that security-oriented services have seen a very large jump in demand.

wow, cool. i´ll give it a try to connect our offices... looks really great!


I feel like this was the only thing on the premium feature list that even mattered. Does skype even generate revenue?

Looks like they're just getting rid of it for now. They added this note to http://www.skype.com/en/premium/:

Now that group video calls are free for everyone, we’ve removed Premium to give it a refresh. But don’t worry, you can still call phones worldwide at great low rates with our subscriptions.

I purchase Skype credit and use it when I need to call companies in other countries. It's very inexpensive. I've also used their feature that let's you attach a phone number to your Skype account before when travelling.

There's Skype Numbers, as it's now called, you buy a phone number for $5/month (in the US) and where ever you are, if someone calls that number you can receive the call using Skype.

My mother and myself are not serious cell phone users, and we use < $40/year subscriptions to make all our US long distance calls, and many local calls (she's 77 and has lost a fair amount of her hearing, so the high quality of Skype calls and flexibility of using a good headset is particularly appreciated. I also like those features).

We keep waiting for Microsoft to screw it up, but they amazingly haven't so far.

though i don't have a premium subscription, i buy skype credit to call my parents in south asia, them not being that tech savvy, i have to call to their landlines/mobiles). for me it's a seamless process, as i can call directly from my computer, or from the app on my mobile if i'm out.

As an extra feature for Microsoft, I'd bet so. I know plenty of people who listed Skype support as one of the big reasons they got the Xbox One. (Skype on the One is part of Live Gold, which is about $60/year)

As well as using it to call international numbers, I also use it for Wifi access at some airports.

No doubt I could do both more cheaply another way, but I do them both so rarely that Skype just already being there "and just working" is great. I pay at most £20 / year.

Maybe group screen sharing is still limited to just premium subscribers?

Nope, they removed the premium option altogether.

I wonder about this too…

Skype pulls in a lot of revenue in the OCS/Lync product set. Companies want still largely want to be able to IM MSN, Yahoo, Skype, and AOL users and they're the only ones that have access to all those user groups. They also leverage B2C video/calls to Skype users.

Ironically I just signed up for premium this month in order to get group chat.

Skype has only one purpose for Microsoft: to sell Lync.

> Does skype even generate revenue?

Even if not, the NSA probably wouldn't let Microsoft shut Skype down

Finally! I don't know anyone who likes G+ over Skype, but we all use it for the group video features.

I'm the CEO of a small remote-working startup with 5 employees. I pay $20/mo for Skype since some of people I meet with only use that and I need the group screen sharing feature. Whenever I have a Skype meeting, I'm nervous, because 50% of the time video or screen sharing won't work. Once I get them to switch to Hangouts there's no problems, ever.

Are you telling me that you experience the opposite? If so, that's very odd.

We've been using hangouts more or less exclusively for at least a year. Hangouts are very stable. When doing training we have hangout sessions that last for two days (minus the nights of course). The problem with hangouts are with access control. Most people are not signed in with an ID that matches their email address and I still don't know how to schedule a hangout that is protected only by it's URL.

I've been able to create URL-based "unlisted" hangouts with:


That will redirect you to a new hangout URL, and (in my experience) you can just copy/paste the new URL to other folks. To use it, they'll need to be logged into a G+ account, but it doesn't matter which one.

Oh upvote the shit out of this! The only hassle we've had with Hangouts is how to start one by yourself and then get a link that's easily pastable into IM so everyone else can join, and this works like a charm.

We use Skype chat as a daily tool to keep the team (a few remote) up-to-date. We have daily standup using a proper mic so the remotes can hear properly.

I find the screen sharing feature in Skype to be poor quality. We tend to use Skype for calls, and then join.me for screen sharing.

We sometimes have call quality problems on Skype too. We also switch to hangouts for this reason, and we are often surprised how good the call quality, video quality and screen share quality is on hangouts.

Only problem is that nobody can figure out how to login or start a hangout. The interface is damn awful. They need a simple app like Skype's that installs like Chrome does, and give me history for gods sake. How hard is that to deliver?

One of the reasons I shy away from hangouts, is that I use Skype to backfill my timesheet. I can see exactly what calls, video calls, chats I made going back to 2006 on Skype's history. Admittedly so can the NSA, but still, the feature is awesome from a work perspective.

It's a complete nightmare for you if you ever get involved in a court case. All that is discoverable-- truly a goldmine for the opposition.

I feel you. I used to use skype for communication with my family, but grew tired of it not working properly. My parents never were able to use properly Hangout because it is too counter-intuitive for them (log on gmail - oops forgot my password, find the chat bottom left window, "Why do you make me go to my emails to chat with you, son?"). Too bad because the few times I was able to connect with them, it was such a better experience than Skype.

I bought an iPad to my mom for Christmas and facetime with them now. It's the best I've found - even easier for them to use than Skype. They call me, I call them, there no confusion anymore.

No idea about the group chat, but I will agree on Skype working really badly (despite their 10+ years of experience) compared to newer solutions as hangout and facetime.

I've never really had a good G+ Hangout video call. The video from others is always so terrible. I used Skype Video for years, to remote parts of the world even, and had few problems.

You should try using Fuze. We replaced Hangouts and Skype with it. Best of all, it is free for 25 simultaneous users in a chat/video.

I prefer Skype since although it has always been a huge CPU hog, its UI is perfect for beginners (i.e. family) and in the decade I've used it, I've never once been cross-sold some pointless feature the parent company are currently trying to promote.

Note Hangouts itself once was Gtalk, which I was a user of, prior to the first cattle herding on to Google+. Now Gundotra is out the door, there is no telling into which silo existing G+ users will be cattle-herded next. Hangouts might be technically superior (although I personally think Skype's rate-adaptive video is second to none), but the treatment of users by its parent company, and their endless thirst for personal data keeps me far away.

Skype just works, just like it has for the past decade, and just like I expect it will continue to in the coming years. I'd place a small wager on Hangouts being long dead, or at the very least rebranded before then

Really good point on Skype being friendly to beginners. I never realized it but my parents get really uncomfortable when I try to walk them over how to set up Google Hangout, and most of the time the conversation just continues on Skype and we drop the experiment. I mean for them its a hassle to install all those plugins and then invite and open emails and confirm and whatnot.

The Android experience is truly far superior to the web interface. My parents just hit the video camera button in the chat app and call me or my younger brother.

I'm a professional programmer that went to engineering school and I can't be fussed to start up hangouts with anyone. It seems like it takes a full 30 minutes to get everyone in the same hangout and I always feel like a buffoon for suggesting.

You used to be able to press two buttons and have a hangout up, then copy/paste the URL and send it to someone.

Most elegant video chat product in existence.

Then it got super complicated with circles and adding people via their g+ accounts and people who use 3rd party chat programs and permissions etc etc etc..

As a user of several Google products, the "cattle-herded" metaphor is perfect. Not a week goes by without my needing to counsel a former Picasa users nursing wounds from the great G+ herding of 2013.

For some reason, G+ hangouts eat a lot more CPU for me than Skype does.

Same here. Hangouts always seems to turn my aging laptop into a fireball.

Lack of GPU acceleration of Flash?

It uses WebRTC and the video tag AFAIK

Not yet- even on chrome webrtc isn't close to the polish/stability/feature set of the plugin.

It's not flash, it's a custom plugin.

Is it Flash? I thought it was just webkit's video rendering.

I dunno, but it always makes me wonder if they test this on any consumer type machines and if their fans are going as fast as mine...

I'm more inclined to think lack of HW-decoding for VP8/9 + Google's "VideoandTalk" plugin on OSX is a piece of crap.

On Windows, if Internet Explorer is not your default browser (or possibly if Chrome is your default browser, not sure), Skype uses far more CPU.

Sounds weird, but it definitely made a difference for me.

Are you kidding? Skype is CONSTANTLY cross-selling you some useless bullshit with the in-interface ads. It's terrible, and the reason I won't use it.

funny, because I don't know anyone who likes skype over G+

Skype's Linux clients are always wonky. G+ has more ItJustWorks, and the contacts list is already built for me from years of using Google stuff.

I prefer Skype over Google Video in that I can pick my call on my PC, laptop, phone or Xbox One.

Imagine having a group call on Xbox One - TV, that would be a sweet conversation and I for one really appreciate this new feature.

Google Hangouts work on PCs, laptops, and phones. When I get a hangout call, it rings on all devices where I'm currently logged into hangouts.

TV is the only place Xbox wins today. Though google does have some TV toys right now (Google TV and Chromecast). They could probably look into adding a webcam to that with hangouts.

They have a TV solution for conference rooms, but it's "enterprisey" in that it's not cheap and comes with an annual fee.


hail corporate

This kind of comment is not appreciated here.

I prefer G+, but the onboarding - actually getting disparate folks easily invited and notified has been inscrutably hard. Part of the prob is that I have multiple gmail accts and address books as do the folks I'm inviting, but another prob seems to be the less than ideal invite workflow. When Goog gets calendars, gmail, docs and hangouts well integrated, Skype will have a serious threat on its hands.

My invite workflow is "Skype everybody the G+ URL"... If they could make a better workflow that'd be great. Maybe they could stop tripping over their feet trying to make everything social and just make this workflow make more sense!

Funny, because I dont know anyone who use G+ at all. Except these who was forced to make G+ profile while was registering just for e-mail.

And same time I know hundreds who use skype on daily basic on literally every device they own. Including TV. Only device in my house lacking skype it's refrigerator.

You dont need to use G+ to use Hangouts. If you have a gmail account you're a one step install away from using video chat. Doesn't matter if you have multiple gmail accounts or not, you just need a link, which hangouts gives you in the invite modal.

Everyone else in the podcasting network I'm on uses G+, but I like Skype because it's easier to record it with one computer.

G+'s video quality was miles ahead of Skype's. Heck, even FaceTime's video quality was better.

>> "Heck, even FaceTime's video quality was better."

I've noticed this too. For a while I was on a really poor internet connection and on Skype calls video just didn't work. However FaceTime was practically flawless on the same connection.

Same experience here. Facetime had near-HD quality even when chatting with people overseas on an unstable 1Mbit line. I really want to know what magic Apple used.

In my experience, FaceTime's quality has surpassed the others as of recent. Partly due to the new retina screen and HD iPhone camera.

I suspect it's some magical data compression technique, because my overseas video calls usually suffer from serious stuttering on Skype, but on Facetime it's smooth as silk.

Either that, or better bandwidth because less people use Facetime.

Better bandwidth is not a function of number of users, but of what you want to spend per user.

I don't have personal experience comparing the qualities of Skype vs FaceTime, but I guess Apple is willing to spend more per user. That makes sense: FaceTime sells hardware, and that brings in money, while Skype seems more like a land grab, especially with this 'group calls are free, too' change. It could also be defensive, with Microsoft thinking they have to offer this to prevent would-be Office 365 users from migrating to Google docs.

Maybe, yeah. I have a feeling the networking is the bigger culprit. In any case, there are definitely fewer users on FaceTime than on Skype.

Seriously? I live abroad and skyped with my family weekly until we switched to G+ to never go back, the quality of the calls and or video difference is not even funny.

Yeah everyone I know hates switching to G+ for group calls. We have to use Skype to guide people through the G+ interface and get them on a group call.

Why not just point them at http://g.co/hangouts ?

Where did you find that link? Or indeed, the page it points to? I've never seen either before.

I too would be interested in knowing where you found that. It has a beautiful interface and solves my #1 annoyance with google hangouts which is: "Where do I go to start one?". Every time I try to use Hangouts I invite a friend but they never get the invite or the other way around and we spend 5min getting it setup when we could have used Skype and had zero issues. Trust me I am all for getting off Skype but hangouts has neither been easy or fast to get going in my experience.

You have always been able to just visit https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/ to directly open a new empty hangout. This is equivalent to clicking "New Video Hangout" in the G+ sidebar. Also, you can give anyone a direct link to any hangout (e.g. via email or text).

Since I use multiple Google Apps accounts and a personal Gmail account, this link works best for me (works for all Google services, just change the continue): https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?continue=https://pl...

Sorry I just got around to this comment. Thank you for the information!

That is in theory a great link because I have the problem of trying to figure out how to actually start a hangout all the time with users. I say in theory because, oddly, if I sign in with one G+ account it takes me right into a Hangout after authentication and any other G+ accounts take me to the beautiful landing page which is completely broken (nothing happens after filling in the form).

Every technical person I know prefers Google Hangouts over Skype.

Every "technical" person. I most times find myself using team-viewer to get G+ to work whenever I have a group chat with my school pals. G+ is great, but unfortunately I have found many non technical people I know have a hard time using it.

It used to be free a few years ago too until it became 'premium' in early 2011. [1] Difference is that now Skype features more ads than in 2011, even if you have multiple monthly subscriptions (A no-ad version is now a considerable perk of the premium version).

[1] - http://www.macworld.com/article/1157435/skype5.html

But will they update Skype for Linux to have group video at all?

It's only been 4 years, give them time.

I use Skype everyday to communicate with family abroad. I have a camera mounted on my television. The quality of Skype is abysmal. Most of the time, you do not have HD video.

When I switch over to using facetime, the video quality is amazing. I don't know what happened to Skype, but its quality is by far the worst available on the market.

> The quality of Skype is abysmal. Most of the time, you do not have HD video.

That comment reminded me of what Louis CK says about wifi on the plane — or attitude towards technology in general. I won’t link because the swear ratio is… well he uses all the possible syntactical options of the f-bomb.

The quality difference is striking, and Skype pales in comparison. But live video feed between common computers is something that, no matter the quality of the feed, should still be seen as the miracle that it is, and somehow only seem so to too few users. Doing that with limited central server is even more impressive. It might not be enough to gather facial expression, and that is a real problem for their offer. But what they do remains the result of ten years of high level engineering, with broad room for progress in many circumstances.

I appreciate the Louis CK argument, but when it comes to communication it doesn't fully apply. Have you ever had a terrible cell phone connection in which you can make out the words but conversation isn't really free and easy? Then you switch to Skype or another medium where you can hear each other with radically improved quality and less latency and then the conversation progresses more smoothly and rapidly?

The same can happen with video. A low quality video connection is a mere novelty, doing little to improve the conversation. A high quality video connection, though, can dramatically improve the conversation. For example, you can watch the expression in your partner's face to see when they are confused, or disagree, or you need to slow down or go faster, and if your points are resonating and connecting.

The Louis CK principle does apply, yes, its amazing. But just as video opens doors not available to audio calls, high quality video calls open many doors that low quality video calls do not.

When I'm trying to introduce my baby to his grandparents overseas and he can't really make them out, I really feel the loss. They sing to him and he can hear it alright, but I also want him to follow their faces.

If the connection is just too poor for whatever reason, it's acceptable, however, when facetime works so well while we are connected to the same wifis, the problem is in Skype.

Yeah, I don't know what the heck is wrong with Skype either. On video calls, the quality is lacking most of the time and even though we're both on fast broadband connections, the "call quality" is still a 3 out of 5 bars. Switch to Google Hangouts and everything works fine with a lot less connectivity issues.

The problem is Skype recently moved to a centralized infrastructure instead of a P2P which has caused terrible issues for pretty much everybody. Allegedly this was done to allow the NSA to snoop on conversations easier.

Allegedly according to whom?

P2P infrastructure isn't realistic when most of your clients are on mobile. Skype used to drain your battery simply by logging in for an hour. Now it doesn't!

Skype and G+ use the same codec families as well, so the differences would be in bandwidth allocation.

It wasn't P2P for everyone, they had "servers" in the P2P network called supernodes.


The battery drain could be from anything. I'm not sure if they use GCM (Google Cloud Messaging) to reduce battery these days but without looking at the code I don't think you could say switching to a centralised server model fixed the battery issues.

I'd written Skype off as malware after it continued to put a browser extension on my computer that parsed every single page I visited without my permission. Even after removing the plugin it would regularly disappear. This behavior is not okay.

If it is the plugin that I remember disabling, it reads the page looking for phone numbers and creates buttons to make skype calls. Wasn't anything I wanted so I disabled the plugin. no biggie.

That's is a Windows thing. I think you could uninstall Skype plugin.


I've used many video conferencing solutions but I have the impression that Skype is going to be the most convenient (largely because we're already using Skype as a team). Sqwiggle[0] is pretty neat as well (Edit: I had to mention that, AFAIK Sqwiggle doesn't support group video conferencing).

[0] https://www.sqwiggle.com/

I like Sococo for teams (I work at Sococo). No scheduling conferences (talk/view any time they're available); integrated video/chat/doc sharing; can tell who's talking to whom/who's not busy/who has their door shut.

Thanks for the reference. I'll definitely check it out.

That's what I like with Sqwiggle (or similar tools). It's the ease of connecting with a team member using video. (I'm just noticing something: I forgot to mention that AFAIK Sqwiggle doesn't support group conferencing.). Your connection/team member is a click away and you know if they're at their desk thanks to the snapshots.

With sqwiggle you can group conference a bunch of people by clicking everyone. You all get joined. Pretty neat.

Unfortunately the way it reacts to changes in bandwidth isn't up to hangouts or skype. We've got one team member working out in the sticks and it just drops out when his bandwidth gets choked. Hangouts on the other hand just falls back gracefully to audio only.

If we all had better connections sqwiggle would be more of a contender.

Thanks guys! We're working hard on improving Sqwiggle's quality on low bandwidth / multiparty calls :-D

We do support group video upto 4 participants, we're working on increasing this - if its a problem you'd like to help solve then we're hiring ;-)

Does anyone else refuse to use Skype because Microsoft was complicit with PRISM?


Of course. They should suffer the loss of ALL their users if you ask me. If anyone here is still using Skype, I wonder what kind of community this is and what kind of future we are building..

Skype, awesome communication tool, turned most expensive honeypot ever.

Nice! Paying a premium for this was a bummer, but it does still work better than all of Skype's competitors, in my opinion. The primary problem of Hangouts and whatever else is out there is audio echo. I don't know if that problem is simply unsolvable in Flash or what, but Skype has handled it much better. All you need is one person on your Hangout call who doesn't mute their mic and the experience is a disaster, unfortunately.

>audio echo

That's a difference in the audio algorithms used. Skype uses SILK while I believe that Google Hangouts uses Opus. SILK and Opus are closely related however. I would assume that Skype didn't allow all their fancy echo-cancellation tweaks to be open-sourced so it's a little better in the Skype implementation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SILK#Opus

I see another player that Skype is going after - WebEx. Most uses for WebEx are simple video chatting. Most times no one need the dozens of other features that WebEx offers in their bloated product. In true innovators dilemma fashion, I can see Skype now truly eating into WebEx's market from the bottom up.

Funny - because just last week I setup new dummy google plus accounts for various family members in Europe and India so we could use hangouts without polluting our regular gmail accounts with Google+ nonsense.

We won't need that anymore - We were perfectly happy with Skype, but missed group video.

I work for Google, so I'm obviously biased here, though I don't always like everything we do around our sites and integration.

But, I'm genuinely curious, what nonsense does Google+ pollute your regular Google account with? I believe that you get a profile page, but you can leave it entirely blank.

If you're seriously asking, I'm happy to answer my two cents, but i'm very concerned that you don't have a sense for the reasons people would want to use G+ gated products without being part of G+.

As someone who has a personal G+ account and doesn't mind, and who runs a company that pays Google for apps for my domain on which we manage our email, I still had to register for G+ to be able to use the hangouts product in invitations and threads I'm having with my work email. Now that I've done so (without adding a profile photo or anything else), i'm getting tons of people adding me to circles, etc., which I don't want. It's essentially forcing a social-connection construct on a relationship with an empty profile that I don't want to create or have to maintain.

I agree completely. I am astonished that Google people genuinely don't understand the things that are off-putting about Google+.

I've never even tried Hangouts because of the G+ requirement. I suppose if I had to, I'd create a one-off account for the purpose.

well to be fair, plenty of google employees are/have-been fully aware of (and vocal about) the various problems with forced G+ integrations on users. It's just that those employees haven't had any power to change those decisions. With the recent changes in leadership, things may change.

This may be true, but it is not the POV implied in OP's question.

I'll answer. I keep getting annoying notification numbers in the top right corner of every Google page.

If it were Gmail, that would be really useful. But it's not. It's "Bobby Noname added you to a circle!" and "Joe I'veNeverHeardOf invited you to a hangout!" and "Spammy McSpammer liked a your video on YouTube!"

I don't need or want any of that nonsense. G+ isn't useful to me, but I don't have any way of turning off the notifications.

Oh, and as a bonus, the G+ API isn't working. Doubly annoying. http://shkspr.mobi/blog/2014/04/extracting-your-own-location...

I add to this "concern". The reason I would not use G+ Hangout (although it may be a fine product, based on the feedback I have seen) is because I do not trust Google for all kinds of deep integration in multiple products.

I am fine using Skype with one particular ID because I am not using that ID on any other system. And that is how I prefer to use Internet everywhere, which I am sure many do as well.

I stopped using YouTube for commenting because of this reason exactly.

Just happy that screensharing is free again ... I was forced to go create a Google+ hangout account just to get access to this functionality. Glad I can just go ahead and delete that now.

I wonder if this includes group screen share That and the group video are the only two reasons any of the people I know have Skype premium.

It does, according to the replies here by Skype http://blogs.skype.com/2014/04/28/skype-loves-bringing-group...

Skype group video calling becomes free (again)

cool. anybody using conference call equipment for skype? We have tried some logitech quipment to connect 2 offices (http://www.logitech.com/de-de/product/tvcam-hd) which didn´t work out very well. any recommendations?

Why not have everyone call in from their own machine? This way, it normalizes the communication bandwidth between everyone, no one feels like it's harder to be heard. A big failing of many remote teams I've seen is when they try to "strap on" a remote team. But if you can minimize the feeling of "real office vs virtual office" it works a lot better.

generally a good idea but we need some kind of conference system, if there is a meeting at office #1 with e.g. four people, to connect the one or another colleague form office #2.

Another neat fact - announced in a Youtube video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4C1DGzHiis&list=PLaLRbjVhH6...

Strange, on their website, they "recommend" group talking with 5 people. On above YouTube video, they said, you "can" talk with 10 people.

I imagine 5 is the upper bounds in their testing for users on the low/mid-level speed tiers from ISPs (ie. what most consumers buy) for "acceptable" video quality.

Too little. Too late. My team and me moved from Skype to Hangouts and then to Fuze already. We're very happy with Fuze. More here: https://www.fuze.com/

In New Zealand I always come back to Skype. It just works, always seem to have issues with Google Hangouts and FaceTime.

This is awesome! Been wanting this for years but never wanted to pay for it because there are so many free options.

Good timing microsoft, specially now that we have this for free for an year already using google hangouts

That title/URL is bugging me, I was thinking in a more cynical world it may read something like:


About the spying, I feel sorry for any poor sucker watching my life! :¬D All that effort for such little excitement.

I am pretty sure, if I had access to your skype chat/camera I would find enough information to extort you. There is one moment, or one line of text or one picture that you don't want to escape your mind.

Edit: Meh, pointless reply is pointless, I'll just agree, it's easier.

My attempts at humouring others escapes me once again... a well.

What's the best open source alternative to Skype?

Take a look at Ekiga (http://www.ekiga.org/).


Skype is a service, not just a desktop client. It's like asking what the best open source alternative to Google search or Google maps might be.

Keep in mind, for most of Skype's history, the application ran peer-to-peer.. You could replicate that functionality with another app.

Can you point me to Skype's API? I always thought that Skype was a closed protocol and that they don't want any other client applications using their service...

Messenger probably didn't want any other clients using their service, but that didn't stop the Pidgins and Trillians of the world... :)

Very true but Skype appears to present a much bigger problem for reverse engineering (I have only seen someone reverse engineer the texting part of Skype and not the video)

Finally! Google Hangouts had it since,like forever

I like the smell of competition by the morning.

this made my Monday

Oh, now the NSA wants your group sex tapes too?

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