Skype, which has been around since 2003, has now made its group calling services free for all users. Until now it was available to premium members for a fee. A fee still also applies for calling Skype to mobile numbers or land lines, and for international calling. The free service is for video messaging between multiple Skype users and Skype friendly devices. The new release this week will allow easier communication between groups and families.
The idea of free group video calls is not new globally. Google Hangouts has offered these services free to their consumers for years. Skype had previously offered the multi-user interaction at a fee of $8.99 a month, with at least one of the callers needing the service. The now free service supports calls between two and ten people. The best optimization of the software is at five callers and below, according to the company’s reports.
Skype also reports a fair usage limit. This means that there is a limit of 100 hours per month. Of these there can be only ten hours per day and four per individual video call. When the time limit is reached, the video screen will be shut off and only the audio portion will remain. The free service is currently limited to select devices, but Skype is expected to expand to all devices in the coming future.
For all Xbox One, Mac and Windows consumers the free Skype software is available now, having started free use on Monday. Android is available for video messaging, but is not currently in the category for free group video calls today. The company is also in the process of developing a Modern UI Skype for Windows 8.1, which is expected to be released in the near future.
Skype has approximately 124 million log-ins monthly. The consumers logging in pay an average annual fee of $96. This amount, though less than a hundred dollars a month, does add up, making the company a lucrative one. Microsoft acquired Skype in May 2011, paying $8.5 billion for the company at that time.
The percentage of the callers that use Skype for its video-to-video feature is estimated to be 40 percent; 35 percent of small businesses use the application as their primary communication service. The advancement of allowing group calling for free is likely to be used not just for personal reasons, but by these businesses as well.
Previous users and new ones alike are welcome to the use of the group video calling now offered by Skype, all for the same fee-of-free. The company offers support for users who are new to the service. For existing users support is also available, and the company states not to be alarmed if messages regarding premium services are appearing.
Skype has been active on Twitter all week, thanking all of the users starting to take part in, the now free, video calling. The company is encouraging use of the new release. They stated, “It’s a great time to get friends and family together”, and with the option to try the product for free many current clientele seem to be. Tweets to the company have been posting all day. No news on further complications with the change have been released, however watching for these as well as fluctuations in the use of Skype and Google Hangouts today and in the future, is something to watch for.
By Latasha Alvaro