Technology is bringing us closer together. Whilst the oldsters and the luddites might stick to the doctrine that social media prevents any “real” communication, they couldn’t be further from the truth. How many connections have been made through Facebook? How much easier is to keep in touch through instant messaging?
But, with the popularity of the once mighty Facebook waning and the fact that the business world has discovered the possibilities of social-media as a tool, video is fast becoming the online way to communicate, whether it be with buddies, or the boardroom. With a huge selection of software and means to get video-conferencing, it can be difficult to know where to start and what service to use. The benefit of having a wealth of services to choose from in tight competition with each other means that you can get a quality service, totally free of charge, although some of the premium services do come at a price.
Here’s a few of the best to get started with.
Perhaps the best known, if not the most popular means of getting your video on, Skype is my preferred service, for both quality and ease of use.
Skype allows you to communicate by video, voice, and instant messaging, as well as allowing file sharing and use on compatible mobile phones. This results in a versatile cross-platform service. Calls can be made to regular telephone networks at a charge, but any peer-to-peer communication is free.
The service is very simple to set up an account on, and is user-friendly at the front end. Once you get going with the video, the feed is steady and constant with very little lag. Even at full screen, the picture quality is a cut above most of the competition. The sound is of a similar high quality, being loud, clear and consistent with the video feed. Skype is also one of the more secure services out there. All communication is encrypted, and easy to use anonymously.
The only real downside to Skype is that the free version only supports one-on-one chat, however the paid Skype Business version allows for up to 10 people to video conference simultaneously, making this an attractive package for moguls, or those with loads of mates and some change to spare.
Skype’s lesser known cousin, Oovoo is another solid service that’s very easy to install and get going.
In terms of what you can do, Oovoo is similar to Skype, with the added feature of the free version allowing you to chat with 12 people at a time (although only 6 by video). Another cheeky bonus is the ability to invite non-Oovoo users into your chat via e-mail, instant message or Facebook.
The premium version of Oovoo allows you to video-conference with 6 people simultaneously, with another 6 folk on the telephone, for when you want to close a big deal, or fire 11 people at once.
Downsides to Oovoo, are poorer quality image and sound than Skype, especially noticeable in fullscreen, which judders and lags frequently. Security is also an issue with calls being unencrypted and open to interception. Another bone of contention among long time Oovoo users is that the free version used to support 3-way conferencing, which was sadly removed.
In comparision to Skype, Oovoo allows more chatter on the free version, at the expense of picture, sound and security.
If you want to think outside the box a bit, and want ease of use over features, Imo.Im may well be the service for you.
Imo.Im differs from its competitors in that it can be used through your existing messaging service, such as MSN Chat. The service supports an impressive range of host clients, from social media like Facebook to videogame download service, Steam. With no software to install, all you need to do is log on and click and you’re getting video-chatty.
Picture and sound are of high quality and relatively judder free, and whilst not quite up to the standard of Skype and Oovoo, are solid nonetheless.
Although being extremely easy to use, not requiring any download, and needing only one click to get connected, Imo.Im is a very basic package. Lacking the bells and whistles of its bigger siblings, Imo.Im is only really a valid option for those wanting a 1-on-1 chat.
Of course, there are plenty of other services out there, both paid and free, that might work out better for your needs, but whether you want a quick chat with a friend or host an international business meeting, one of the above should meet your video needs, however big or small they may be.