BY DAN FROELICH

Just when I can’t get enough of Skype’s amazingly high-quality video conferencing, they add another new feature. Early this summer, Skype added a four-way video calling feature. After some testing and feedback from users, the latest Beta release now offers 10-way calling. Take a look at the sample screen shot to see what this would look like. You’ll notice one user doesn’t have a webcam, but they can still participate in the audio conversation while seeing friends around the world.

I can remember using a CU-SeeMe system more than a decade ago. Eventually AOL’s instant messenger added video capability, but when Skype came out, they offered a system that scaled audio and video quality to take advantage of your bandwidth for the best user experience on the market.

So how do we leverage a system that has has an estimated 200 million users? Take a look at this Instructifeature article for great ideas for classroom uses of Skype.

Skype is another application that is ignoring the barrier of platform-specific programming. Skype is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Blackberry OS, and the Android OS. Eliminating the need to adopt a specific system, Skype users don’t have to worry about whether or not their friends, family, or colleagues use the same hardware.

With other popular chat services adding new features everyday, Skype is on the move to stay ahead of the curve. Recently, Google added video and voice chat within Gmail as well as allowing users in the United States to call any phone number in the U.S. and Canada for free, and call worldwide for pennies per minute. Similarly, FaceTime on the latest generation iPhone and iPod Touch allows users to place video calls via WiFi, but all users must own the latest device. With an open-source code slated to be available to application developers, we could possibly see Skype or other video conferencing applications take advantage of new hardware developments. At the moment, mobile device owners are limited to using Skype for voice calls and text-based conversations.

Precautions: As with all beta releases, some features may not be completely stable. Additionally, Skype is drumming up a new business model to eventually lead to a fee structure for advanced features. All research points to large-group video conferences being attached to some sort of subscription service. Current subscription fees exist for users that want to use their Skype account as their primary telephone service.

To test out this new feature, download the Skype 5.0 beta update here. Keep in mind that beta versions are not fully supported and are not always stable.

Need someone to start a Skype call with? Feel free to add me (Skype ID: danfroelich217)

Skype 5.0 beta update

Related stuff

Instructifeature: A window on the world — Using Skype in the classroom