The 8 Best Bets for Video Chat

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The 8  Best Bets for Video Chat
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Forget the disembodied voice at the end of the line. Video chat allows distant friends and relatives to pop in for virtual visits and people are catching on. Even back in 2010, Skype boasted 23 million logged-in users during peak hours. Most people agree: It’s more meaningful to talk face-to-face with someone you care about. Especially when it’s your kid or spouse, in a different time zone, sharing something visual in real time. There a number of options for video chatting so read on to see what's best for you.

Skype
Photo courtesy Skype

Skype

Skype is a powerhouse: Not only does it support instant-messaging, but the tech giant serves up a robust platform for Wi-Fi calling and video chatting. Acquired in 2011 by Microsoft, Skype supports desktop clients for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. A mix of free and subscription plans are available for purchase.

Related: Skype

Google Plus Hangouts
Photo courtesy Google

Google Plus Hangouts

With support for up to 10 simultaneous connections, the free Google Plus Hangouts connects you with your friends on Google's social network. The service also integrates with Google Drive to permit real-time document editing. Moreover, you can save your Hangout and broadcast it for others to watch later. Besides the Web app, Google offers apps for Android and iOS. The service is ideal for people who want to share social chats for others to enjoy.

Related: Google Plus Hangouts

FaceTime
Photo courtesy Apple, Inc.

FaceTime

Apple's mobile-to-mobile video chat solution -- FaceTime -- connects users of Apple's iPad, iPod and iPhone. The free service runs on Wi-Fi or a cellular connection (but watch for data caps!) and supports high-definition video calling and picture-in-picture displays. FaceTime is a free app and works only with other users who use Apple products, so it's ideal for people whose friends all use iPhones or iPads.

Related: Apple FaceTime

ooVoo
Photo courtesy ooVoo

ooVoo

With both a browser-based interface and an app, ooVoo -- which supports 12 simultaneous users in a group video chat -- works on PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices. The service supports session recording, so you can share your chats on YouTube. Free for most users, ooVoo also offers a premium plan that includes screen sharing and an ad-free experience; as of March 2013, the subscription costs $29.99 per year or $2.99 per month.

Related: ooVoo

Chatroulette
Photo courtesy Chatroulette

Chatroulette

Want to talk on the wild side? Chatroulette, a free Web-based video-chat service, lets users engage in one-on-one video sessions -- usually, with a complete stranger. Chatroulette lets members purchase tokens, used for premium connections, although tokens aren't necessary for most functionality. The service is aimed at social discovery of new people, with settings to limit your search to basic categories like gender and language.

Related: Chatroulette

Tokbox
Photo courtesy Tokbox

Tokbox

The do-it-yourself type might appreciate Tokbox. Built on the OpenTok API framework, Tokbox provides basic video-chat and streaming-video functionality, but its strength lies in its extensibility. The OpenTok system lets developers embed streams directly into websites or iOS apps using Java. The service offers several payment tiers, including a free tier that's tied to the number of users and the total minutes that the OpenTok servers must support a video feed.

Related: Tokbox

Lync
Photo courtesy Lync

Lync

Businesses may favor Microsoft Lync, including its hooks into Microsoft Outlook and its support for video chat and desktop sharing. The program, a part of the Office365 lineup, includes cross-platform chat, video conferencing and VoIP calling. Because the app is included with Office365, pricing depends on which support plan you purchase. Large organizations may deploy a dedicated internal Lync server, while small businesses may let Microsoft do the hosting. Lync users can freely communicate with Lync or Skype users, and self-hosted servers may open up other instant-messaging protocols, too.

Related: Microsoft Lync

WebEx
Photo courtesy WebEx

WebEx

Cisco's WebEx software is designed for business: Customers get toll-free call-in data for audio conferencing, online whiteboards and document collaboration, plus video conferencing and desktop sharing -- supported by a robust infrastructure that can support hundreds of simultaneous connections. WebEx supports HD video, as well. Pricing varies by tier, with the lowest (free) tier capable of three participants per meeting.

Related: WebEx

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