My new Dungeons & Dragons gaming group has been meeting virtually the past few weeks, but we still can’t decide on which service offers the best quality and user interface—and is easiest for all of us to access. We’ve been jumping between Zooms, Facebooks, FaceTimes, and even a Houseparty or two, and we haven’t made up our minds—but a new feature from Skype might make the decision easier.
I’ve always detested Skype because it plants itself in your Windows taskbar and never goes away. However, one fun feature Microsoft recently released makes it incredibly easy for people to join a videoconference—and as an added bonus, they might not even need to install Skype to do it. It’s called “Meet Now,” and I love it.
How to set up a “Meet Now” in Skype as the host
Click the “Meet Now” button and Skype will automatically generate a unique link to a meeting room that you can copy and share with others. Remember, anyone with this link will be able to join your meeting. This is different than having a “personal room” on the service, as the link is only good for the duration of an individual meeting. Closing out of this call and launching another “Meet Now” meeting generates a different shareable link.
Once you’ve launched your meeting, Skype’s interface should look familiar. You can click on attendees to mute them or remove them from your meeting as necessary. Open up the more menu options by clicking the icon in the lower-right corner and you’ll be able to turn off all incoming video or hold the call entirely.
Screen-sharing via Skype is as easy as clicking the large button in the lower-right corner, and you can even chat with call participants in a text-based window as needed. (Click the hamburger icon in the upper-left corner, right-click on your “Meet Now” meeting and select “Manage group” to adjust settings for the chat, including its history.)
How to join a “Meet Now” in Skype as a participant
Generally speaking, all a person needs to do to join a Meet Now host’s call is to copy and paste the unique meeting link into your browser. If you’re on a desktop, you might be asked to either log into your account or launch Skype if you’ve already been using your Microsoft Account elsewhere (like in Windows). You can also just open up an incognito or private window in your browser, paste the link, and sign into the Skype call via the web service as a guest—no installation needed.
If you’re on a smartphone or tablet, you’ll need the Skype app. I couldn’t find a clever way to simply log in as a guest using the web-based UI on my iPad without it:
That minor annoyance aside, “Meet Now” is still a useful way to allow people to join your video chats without needing to sign up for (or log into) a Skype account. And Skype’s limits for free video chats are pretty generous:
“Group video calls are subject to a fair usage limit of 100 hours per month with no more than 10 hours per day and a limit of 4 hours per individual video call. Once these limits have been reached, the video will switch off and the call will convert to an audio call. If a participant of a group video call is not on a version of Internet Communications Software that supports group video calls, then the call will be an audio call only for that participant. The number of permitted participants on a group video call varies from 3 to a maximum of 50, depending upon device and associated system requirements.”