Thanks to video chat, staying in touch with friends, loved ones, and colleagues anywhere in the world has never been easier. Here's a look at five of the most popular applications that allow you to get a little face-time with your boss while you work from home, or say hello to a loved one who's away on a business trip.
Photo by Global X
We did our own tests for the Battle of the Video Chat Applications, but just because we liked our winner doesn't mean that we don't want to take a broader view. Here's the top five apps nominated by readers.
Regardless of the fact that the service was recently purchased by Microsoft, Skype is clearly still one of the most popular video chat services available today. It's cross-platform, available for mobile devices, and it's easy to use. Plus, the fact that it's so commonly used makes it easy to get started. Still, complaints are rising about Skype: the influence Microsoft will have, the rise of paid features, and application bloat have all made many of you wary enough to look for alternatives.
Google Talk is almost as ubiquitous as Skype, and since you essentially have access to it every time you check Gmail, many of you have already switched over to it. It's also cross-platform, and Google just announced video for Google Talk on Android last month. Plus, many of you highlighted Google Talk's high performance on systems with varying specs, even low-end machines.
iChat is Apple's home-grown instant messaging client. The app has come a long way over the years, starting off as just an OS X native AIM client and eventually growing to support multiple chat networks and video and audio conferencing over Apple's own Bonjour networks, AOL's network, and over Google Talk. iChat also supports screen sharing and application presentation. Even though it's only available for the Mac, it is included with OS X, making it the easiest option for Mac users to collaborate with one another, or chat with friends on any platform.
ooVoo is free, supports Mac OS and Windows, mobile devices, and video calls among all of them. Best of all, the participants on your video call don't have to be ooVoo members if they don't want to sign up: they can join your video call via Web browser. You can share documents, record video calls for posterity, share desktops, and collaborate on documents. Best of all, it's free – as long as you're only video chatting with three other people. Any more than that and you can pay per use, or per month, depending on the features you want.
Up until recently, AOL Instant Messenger didn't have its own video chat service. All that changed when AOL launched AV by AOL, a free video chat service for up to four people, all with no account or application required: all you need is a Web browser. Generate your video chat "room," send your friends the link, and they can join, free of charge. You can also log in to AIM and invite your friends to join to chat.
The honorable mention this week goes to CamFrog, which came pretty close to AV in nominations. Camfrog offers free video chat rooms and live webcams, and allows you to broadcast to the masses or set up a room where you and others can video conference privately. The service even has rooms for the deaf, and mobile apps for video chat on the go. Depending on the success or failure of the others, we'll likely hear more from Camfrog soon.
Did we leave out your favourite service? Do you have a reason why everyone should vote for your favourite, forsaking all others? Let's hear it in the comments.