Skype debuted a very useful (and social) feature for the desktop way back in 2010: Group Video Calling. Specifically, the feature was in a public beta stage with widespread testing and thus, carried a price tag of $0 with the idea being it would eventually be a paid feature when the service becomes stable enough. Fast forward a few months to 2011 and Skype rolled the feature out to its official version of the app for Mac and PC and put a price tag on it. As you can imagine, as the price of entry went above nothing, free alternative services such as Google’s Hangouts video calling emerged. Three years later, the Microsoft-owned company is back in the business of bringing multiple faces together over video for free (hooray!) as today it announced group video calling for everyone at no cost… again.
“For the last few years, we’ve offered group video calling to Premium users on Windows desktop and Mac and more recently Xbox One. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re making group video calling free – for all users on these platforms. And, in the future, we’ll be enabling group video calling for all our users across more platforms – at no cost.”
Specifically, the group video chatting supports up to 10 different video streams and works across platforms including Mac, Windows, and Xbox One (though Xbox users need a paid membership to unlock Skype). Previously, non-premium accounts were limited to one-to-one video calls or group voice calls unless one party was specifically a paid Skype user. Support for group video calling on mobile operating systems seems slated for future versions as it is currently not available on Skype for iPhone or iPad.
Skype for Mac/PC is a free update for existing users or you can download the latest version from Skype’s website.
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