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April 28, 2014

Skype Introduces Free Group Video Calling - Is WebRTC the Reason?

Skype finally announced free group video calling – something users have been requesting for years – for Windows desktop, Mac and Xbox One users. But the underlying question coming from many is, “Is this because of WebRTC?”

It’s an interesting question, mostly because the majority of end users won’t even question Skype’s motive behind this announcement. On the other hand, there are plenty of people immersed in the world and development of real-time communications who are wondering if WebRTC is bringing some competition Microsoft couldn’t ignore.

There are some people who aren’t concerned about motive or the announcement because they already have means of group video calling for free – using WebRTC – which is exactly the type of example that are leading people to think the effects of WebRTC competition is what finally pushed Skype to enable this long-requested feature.  

“This is a case of the game changing to a new blue ocean. Skype’s revenue model has been primarily about telecom and bypassing settlements, so international calls have been a mainstay. Now the advent of WebRTC has changed the discussion from international phone calls to an interactive World Wide Web of communication,” explained Carl Ford, CEO of Crossfire Media.

Up until now, group video calling was offered as part of Skype Premium service or individual day pass to access Skype Premium. The feature enables up to 10 people using PCs or Macs to join a video chat. Free group video calling will soon be available for users across more platforms.

“Skype is proud that, since our beginning, we’ve created opportunities for people to communicate freely and easily, no matter where they are; from keeping in touch with remote family members or calling home when traveling to chatting daily with your close circles of friends. While Skype is known for one to one video calling, we know it’s also essential to connect with the groups of people who matter most, whether friends, family or colleagues,” Phillip Snalune, GM of consumer marketing a Microsoft, wrote in a  company blog post with the announcement.

Microsoft is not completely silent in the WebRTC space. It’s behind the object real-time communications (ORTC) API, which requires less of a background in UC concepts like SDP and SIP and is designed to address WebRTC, mobile and server-side development needs. MS Open Tech developed a prototype implementation that shows ORTC in action – it delivers real-time video chat between browsers, which supports the STLS and ICE transport model.

Want to learn more about the latest in WebRTC? Be sure to attend WebRTC Conference & Expo, June 17-19 in Atlanta, Ga. Stay in touch with everything happening at the event -- follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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