Story 2014-04-28 3JF Skype Gives In: Group Video Chat Now Free, Like Hangouts

Skype Gives In: Group Video Chat Now Free, Like Hangouts

Anonymous Coward
in internet on (#3JF)
story imageHurray for the free market and its few remaining giant members.

Because of pressure from Google Hangouts, which has offered free group video calls for a while now, Skype has announced they'll begin rolling out free group video calls. Unfortunately they're starting with desktop clients first.

Lifehacker has a brief writeup here , with more information available via the Skype blog .

This is good news for me since I have an Android phone on which I've thus far completely avoided registering a Google account (though I was just about to, since I found out that you can do two-way Hangout chat with a GMail address but WITHOUT having to succumb to Google+).

This is a nice alternative for those who'd rather sell this part of their identities to Microsoft instead of Google, and who have still managed to avoid the incessant +ing of Google.

Score one for heterogeneity.

[Ed. note: Coincidentally, this comes very close on the heels of Google pulling back on Google+ and supposedly moving its Hangouts dev team to Android.]
Reply 25 comments

Great News (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-04-28 18:09 (#17X)

I actually paid for Skype for group video chat... and I joined GooglePlus for Hangouts...

Personally, I would prefer to pay Skype than have to join a Social Network, but this is the pressure of modern collaboration, you have to go where your colleagues are or you just look ludite.

Maybe this means I won't need to renew my Skype subscription to retain this feature. Unfortunately, they had it set up on auto-renew when I signed up, so I will have to check my preferences, which is something I frequently forget to check... thanks for the heads up in any case

Re: Great News (Score: 1)

by on 2014-04-28 18:14 (#17Y)

Just checked my account, I appear to have auto-received a Skype Premium promotion until early 2015, interesting...

Re: Great News (Score: 1)

by on 2014-04-28 18:16 (#17Z)

Previously, I've never modded my own posts up -- now they get a 1 automatically immediately upon posting? Is that expected behaviour? Maybe I haven't been paying attention...

Re: Great News (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2014-04-28 18:54 (#181)

A change was made a couple of weeks back to raise the default moderation score of non-AC posters to 1. It's a new-ish development, but so many additional things have evolved on Pipedot in the interim that it feels like it happened quite a while ago.

Re: Great News (Score: 1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-28 19:04 (#182)

Ha ha - you get a point just for being you!

Re: Great News (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-04-28 19:24 (#184)

Assuming you've used both Skype and Hangouts video chat a fair amount, how would you compare the quality/stability etc.? Do you ever use them over a sketchy connection, on either side?

Re: Great News (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-04-29 12:09 (#18M)

I like both. I use Skype more -- but this is mostly because many of my contacts are on Skype. My experience with Skype is that it can be unstable on certain links, especially using wireless internet at some hotels and such. Then again, I have used it for international connections from all over Europe, Latin America and North America and would rate my satisfaction >95%. I like Google Hangouts as well and it has been stable for me in all cases. Then again, I have not tested Google Hangouts on the same connections where Skype has experienced difficulty. I have only used Google Hangouts from wired or otherwise strong internet connections where Skype works fine as well. My sense is that Skype/Hangouts connection quality is linked directly to internet connection quality.

The link between Google+ and Google Hangouts stopped me from using Hangouts for a long time (I have zero interest in social networks), but I finally joined to use Hangouts because certain work collaborations had a pre-existing culture of using Hangouts and not Skype. Since then, I have been surprised at the number of contacts who have joined Google+ principally to use Hangouts. Anecdotally then, I would say that Hangouts is competing well and perhaps this is why Skype dropped the fee. I think my ideal scenario would be an open or standard communication protocol like email for multi-head video chat so that different people, groups could all be using different clients without being centralized in some database. This probably exists, but if everyone is on Skype/GooglePlus/Facebook it is not necessarily suitable.

Re: Great News (Score: 2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-29 16:16 (#18W)

The huge, huge problem is that you more or less need a centralized (or distributed) directory service to make connecting easy for people. Jabber/XMPP and Ekiga-style clients that do VoIP and H.264 video are all well and good, but without an easy directory to reach people, they're just dead meat walking. It seems offers a directory, but who the hell uses it... Same with other providers of SIP / VoIP addresses...

But really, Jabber is the right way to do it; domain owners and ISPs should all be running their own video/telephony servers just as they do mail servers, so becomes your Videoconferencing address. Some day?

Re: Great News (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-01 16:26 (#1A5)

viva! is the future, today.

Re: Great News (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-01 17:30 (#1A9)

Guess I'm not ready for "the future" then.
This application is currently only supported by Chrome, Chromium and Opera

Download Chrome

We are hoping that multistream support for Firefox would not be long so that we could all use this application with our favorite browser.

Re: Great News (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-01 17:31 (#1AA)

Seriously, I appreciate WebRTC as much as anyone, but it's hardly a solution if it supports only a subset of Internet users.

Re: Great News (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-01 19:06 (#1AF)

Ugh, this is terrible. The standard Jitsi client (not the WebRTCed version linked above) won't even talk to and similar networks! (Because of conflicting NAT traversal methodologies.) What a mess the open source conferencing world is in.

From the Jitsi FAQ:

Why can’t I connect to

NB: the problems described in this section also apply to other providers such as

Short Answer: The SIP servers are configured in a way that prevent Jitsi (and many other SIP user agents for that matter) to register with the service. Please use or instead.

Slightly Longer Answer: The service at is configured to only accept SIP REGISTER requests that contain a public IP address in their Contact header. This means that registration from Jitsi would fail unless you actually have a public IP address. The Ekiga client circumvents this by using STUN to learn the address and port that have been allocated for the current session. It then uses the pair in the SIP Contact header. This kind of use was common for the first version of the STUN protocol defined in RFC 3489 which was sometimes referred to as “classic STUN”.

The IETF has since significantly reviewed the way STUN should be used. The new version of the protocol is now defined in RFC 5389 which, among other things, advises against the use of STUN as a standalone NAT traversal utility:

However, experience since the publication of RFC 3489 has found
that classic STUN simply does not work sufficiently well to be
a deployable solution.

Today STUN represents one of the tools used by complete traversal mechanisms such as SIP OUTBOUND (RFC 5626) or ICE (RFC 5245). Neither of these includes sending a STUN obtained address in a Contact header.

So, where does Jitsi currently stand on all this? At the time of writing, we support the ICE protocol but only use it with XMPP. Use with SIP is likely to come in the near future. The reason we haven’t implemented it yet is that most SIP servers currently open to use over the Internet, use a technique called latching. When such servers detect you are connecting from behind a NAT, they would start acting as a relay, receiving media from your peers and then forwarding it to you (and vice versa). While this is by far the most reliably way of traversing NATs, it does indeed imply some scalability constraints.

ICE on the other hand would only fall back to relaying if no other way was found to connect the two participants. This is why it is considered as a more optimal solution and why it’s also on our roadmap.

Note however that the constraints on would continue preventing Jitsi from connecting even when we do implement support for ICE.


Re: Great News (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-28 21:42 (#189)

Somebody, somewhere once said this about Googleplus and Facebook back when Facebook was forcing you to get and use a email address:

"Join Facebook and get an email address shoved down your throat. Get a Gmail account and get a social network shoved down your throat." Same goes for anyone who ever wanted to comment on a youtube video. Crikey - makes me not even want to use Youtube because of that alone. Who wants your youtube comments blasted out to everyone in your network? Not me.

Re: Great News (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-04-29 10:24 (#18J)

Not that I approve, but the reason I believe they linked YouTube and G+ was specifically because of the YouTube comments. Hasn't seemed to change anything, but I seem to remember reading they were hoping that if people had to use an account linked to them personally rather than anonymous posting they'd think a little harder about leaving troll comments. Too bad the generation that's leaving the majority of troll comments on YouTube is a generation that doesn't care about privacy anyway so they don't care that in 20 years they'll have a ton of public postings that any employer will fined in 5 minutes that shows what kind of person they really are.

Re: Great News (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-04-29 12:20 (#18Q)

I think you're right, that they tried to do away with anonymity on Youtube comments to get people to shape up. I'm not convinced it worked though. It's thrown a bucket of cold water on people who'd otherwise enjoy Youtube more. And the dumb*sses that don't care are still out there posting crap. Youtube has about the worst comments anywhere. Not cool though, the way Google asked you about a hundred times if you wanted to link your Youtube account to your Google account (I said no, every time) and then basically just did it anyway. I avoid Youtube now (made me more productive in life anyway not wasting time there).

Re: Great News (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2014-04-29 15:02 (#18V)

Who wants your youtube comments blasted out to everyone in your network? Not me.
When I add a comment to a YouTube video on my phone there is a checkbox of "Share Publicly". If it is unchecked I didn't see if in my feed, but I have not looked into this that much. I don't know about the website version.

Good Editing (Score: 2, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-29 16:25 (#18X)

Just a note from the proud first time submitter here.

This is yet another way that the good Pipedot folks (which I assume means Bryan) do a better job than either Slashdot or SN. Rather than slap up my submission, they edited it well, adding a short paragraph with two links (whereas I had only provided the Lifehacker URL) and also leaving an Editor's Note with some interesting background info.

Simple stuff, sure, but it's indicative of care and quality, and I appreciate it.

Again, though, we've got no article or comment volume to speak of. :(

Re: Good Editing (Score: 1, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-29 16:34 (#18Z)

As a buddy once said, 'the cream rises to the top.' Keep reading, posting, commenting, and the crowds will discover it and come to us. Feel free to spread the word to your friends, of course! That's what I'm doing!

Re: Good Editing (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2014-04-29 16:34 (#190)

BTW there are at least 2 or 3 volunteer editors on deck, too.

Re: Good Editing (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-04-29 19:50 (#196)

Indeed. I'm very grateful and would like to thank these editors. A quick look at the submission history shows a good overview of who all is helping to edit and publish articles. (Hint: it's not me :P)

Re: Good Editing (Score: 1)

by on 2014-04-29 21:37 (#198)

Wow, having a submission history is pretty cool. Not sure if it's unique? In any case, it is a nice step in the direction of transparency and honesty. Cool technology - well done.

Video conferencing that doesn't suck? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-29 17:04 (#191)

Skype is horribly slow on android and sucks on Linux as well. Google took a step backwards with Hangouts, Talk before was actually almost usable. But nevertheless, XMPP is based on XML which sucks in itself. Is there a minimal, open source video conferencing solution that doesn't suck?

Re: Video conferencing that doesn't suck? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-04-29 21:13 (#197)

Maybe you just need more bandwidth? Video is a greedy beast no matter what the software. I think Skype does a pretty good job for the most part.

But yeah it would be nice if more people interoperated with Ekiga and other open source clients.

Re: Video conferencing that doesn't suck? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-05-01 16:31 (#1A6)

It's certainly not minimal, but try Jitsi.