If there is one name that is synonymous with video chat, it is Skype. As a matter of fact, it is so prevalent it has become part of the vernacular: Skyping. The free and pay version Microsoft provides is relied upon by small businesses and consumers alike as their go to solution, but it is not the only platform available out there.
The one thing Skype has going for it is the massive technological and financial resources of Microsoft. This has allowed Skype to regularly add new features, which is responsible for the platform remaining as the top or one of the top systems in the market.
However, there are many companies that provide the same type of service as Skype. While some compare favorably, there are others that leave much to be desired. If you want to experiment with something other than Skype for video chat, here are some free options that will do just as well.
These are the features for the free option, but they all have premium versions just like Skype that provide increased capabilities.
Free Video Conferencing Services
All you need to use Google Hangouts and all of its features is a free Gmail or Google+ account and you are set. There’s no need to install any third-party app. And Hangouts has a variety of features for a free application. You can chat over text, HD video, or VoIP call and host Hangouts for up to 10 people within or outside of your organization.
If you want to broadcast your conversation, you can use Hangouts on Air for free and it will upload a recording to your YouTube channel.
Facebook Messenger Group Video Chat
Just like Skype, group video chat on Facebook Messenger will also have the backing of a large company and it will undoubtedly continue to get better. But as for now, it starts you with up to six people for a free group video chat.
In most cases this is enough to bring in all the employees of the vast majority of small businesses. If there are more people, up to 50 friends can join through voice, or be on camera, but only the dominant speaker is shown to all participants.
This is a platform used by everyone from NASA to hospitals that have to abide by strict regulatory compliances. The free version is HIPAA secure and has instant messaging, file send and unlimited group video with 720p HD video calling.
One of the best features of VSee is it works with low bandwidth, which according to the company uses 50 percent less than Skype. This allows VSee to work on 3G, 4G and WiFi networks without losing quality.
With more than 800 million users globally, WeChat is one of the most popular platforms in the world. You can use the Free Video Group chat option to have a conversation with up to nine other users. Participants can post messages or notices in a group during the conference and they will be alerted with each post to ensure everyone gets the memo.
Talky is a free, simple video calling service. It doesn’t require sign-up or installation. Simply enter a room name on the homepage to start a chat. You can copy and paste your chat room link to include more than 15 people in the group.
Participants can share their screens with the rest of the group. You can opt to add a shared key to the chat if you wish, to increase privacy. Talky is available in your Web browser, or you can opt to download the mobile app for iOS.
As one of the most trusted audio conferencing platforms, UberConference also provides video communications which top at 10 users for the free version. With this you will get call recording, HD quality audio, unlimited conferences and screen and document sharing. The platform also lets you integrate with LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.
Cisco’s WebEx is especially designed to bring all the tools of today’s meetings to one platform. It lets you share anything on your screen while allowing users to edit and markup documents together with HD 720P video, high quality audio and many other features. The only drawback when it comes to the free version is, you only get up to three participants. If you want more than that, you have to pay.
As long as you have a browser, you can use Appear.in to bring up to eight people instantly into a video chat room. And creating rooms is as easy as naming them, sharing the link by email or chat and then clicking your links to begin. It works across platforms so participants can join in whether they are on their laptops, desktops, iOS or Android devices.
The free version of Join.me lets you share files, chat and screens on your Mac or PC. The video conferencing feature allows up to five people to join in and puts each person in a circle or bubble you can move around on your screen.
With a maximum of 12 people on the free video chat version, ooVoo has some features that set it apart. Small businesses can use this platform to video chat without ever paying. This includes sharing files and recording a conference with full-screen chats, talk and text in real-time. You can use it on desktops or mobile devices running iOS, Android, or Windows.
Viber is a free messaging and calling app with hundreds of millions of users, but all participants must have it installed on their system. Once this is done, however, a a group chat can accommodate up to 250 and also also allows text, voice and video. Viber can be used on smart mobile devices running iOS, Android or Windows Phone, and can also be used on Windows and Mac desktops.
Jitsi is an open source chat and video call software allowing participants to share their desktops, record calls, encrypt calls and do instant messaging. This includes OTR end-to-end and audio stream encryption. And the platform is compatible with most of the operating systems out there. When it comes to the number of users, it allows video conferencing for up to 32 users, which is very good for a free version.
If you want a secure platform that is totally free and open source, then Tox is a solution you may wish to explore. Tox will not disclose your name, IP address, OS details or other identifying information to any non-authorized users. It enforces end-to-end encryption on both sides while communicating with contacts, contractors, customers or partners. Tox provides face-to-face video calls, screen and file sharing while ensuring the privacy of all participants.
Slack is a collaboration tool which until recently only used third-party apps such as Skype for its video communications. The company has now added video, and while the free version is limited, with only two person video calls, it has many features that create the potential for collaboration. These features include the ability to search through up to 10k of your team’s most recent messages, the availability of up to 5GB total file storage, a two-factor authentication process and real-time connectivity with teams.
Small businesses are always looking for the best value when it comes to selecting a communications solution. Whether it is free or not, make sure the solution you choose has the tools you need and provides a security protocol to protect the conversations you will be having with your customers, vendors or anyone else.
There are many other options, including WhatsApp and more, but they are either relatively new, don’t have free video calling or are very limited in their features.
Video Conference Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Free Video Conferencing Services to Challenge Skype” was first published on Small Business Trends