Video Heads; Never forget a face with these video chat services
Anonymous Internet Chat is now a thing of the past as new internet services provide live streaming video of the person on the other end of the line, gratis. Helpful for business conference calls and loved ones who live apart, but bad news for those who like to make obscene hand gestures during heated debate…..
1. Skype (www.skype.com)
Best For: Cheap Calls
The Ebay-owned Skype service was the first to bring VoIP to the masses, and it’s a dab hand at video chat (VCoIP), too. It’s simplicity itself to set up – just select a contact, then click on the green button to make a call. Video is a little grainy compared to some of the other applications, although audio through the Freetalk Wireless Stereo Headset (available on the Skype shop) was refreshingly clear. There’s also the added bonus of really cheap calls to mobiles – or even free calls if they’re Skype -enabled.
Thumbs Up: The ease of set-up and large number of existing subscribers.
Thumbs Down: Video quality could be better. The interface is quite cluttered.
2. ICHAT (www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat)
Best For: Mac Users
Apple’s video chat has been a favourite of the Mac clan for years, and the recent updates should ensure that continues. You’ll need a Mac or AOL ID to get started, but set-up is easy and adding contacts takes no time. The Mac’s built-in iShight webcam captures high quality video and the compatibility with Google Talk and Jabber is a real bonus too. Video quality is the best on test, and you can share full-screen presentations with work colleagues, or change the background to imply you’re working from somewhere exotic, rather than your living room in Borivil.
Thumbs Up: Professional-looking video conferencing.
Thumbs Down: For Mac boys only.
3. Yahoo Messenger (messenger.yahoo.com)
Best For: Fans of Voicemail
The Yahoo service is a collaboration between Microsoft’s Windows Live and Yahoo accounts, so it should be a success. “Should” is the operative word, however, as it’s clear that Yahoo would prefer you to converse via typing or voice. The video sharing option is hidden in a drop-down menu and forces you to enable your webcam on your friend’s machine before starting a conversation, and the video doesn’t stop rolling when you hang up, which could lead to a few embarrassing situations. The addition of voicemail makes this a viable phone service, but not terribly good one.
Thumbs Up: Runs with Windows. Voicemail for missed calls.
Thumbs Down: Video calling hassles
4. Windows Live Messenger (messenger.live.com)
Best For: Universal Access
MSN Messenger is the de facto IM chatting programme for the vast majority of the instant messaging generation. Most people will already have a bulging buddies list and it’s quick and easy to add a new Windows Live account. Start a video chat (on PCs only) by clicking the webcam icon and the other person will be asked to accept the call. It features all the usual sharing tools for documents and photos, you can even play games and watch your contact struggling over their next move. It’s not the best system ever, but it does let you talk to everyone.
Thumbs Up: Everyone has a Windows Live account.
Thumbs Down: Crash-prone and generally avearge.
5. Google Talk With Video (www.google.com/talk)
Best For: All-Round Excellence
Google’s standalone chat client is a useful service, but it comes into its own when used in conjunction with Google Mail. You have to download a Google Voice and Video add-on before you start video chatting; once that’s done it’s a cinch to see which friends are online and video enabled – a green video cam icon appears. Video is sharp and audio is just swell. Is this another ploy by the all-seeing Google to grasp information about us, or is it simply a damn good video service? Umm… probably the latter.
Thumbs Up: The seamless integration between Gmail and Google Talk.
Thumbs Down: Why is the video option hidden in a menu below the chat window?