With much of the world now working from home during the Covid-19 crisis, many are turning to video calling to stay connected with friends and family or to attend business meetings. Both are important, and more than ever the quality of video conferencing software is coming under scrutiny.
‘Skype’ may have become a verb such was its former popularity but the product itself isn’t as widely used as it once was. In the past few weeks, popular enterprise calling software Zoom has shot to the top of download lists the world over as people who use it for work not only use it more but start using it for personal reasons too.
But which is best? Is Zoom really that much better than Skype? Here, we break down the features, pros and cons of both Zoom and Skype to see which one you should be using, and why.
The original video calling software launched in 2003 and was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. It is available as a free download today for desktop and mobile for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac.
As well as its well-known video call function, Skype also offers a text based instant messenger.
Much like other internet video calling services like Facebook Messenger or FaceTime, Skype’s video call feature is free to use over a data or Wi-Fi connection to call other Skype accounts. The limit for group calls is 50 users.
There is a relatively affordable paid subscription service if you want to use Skype to make international calls to mobile or landline numbers.
Skype’s relatively basic functions include screen sharing, file sharing, call recording and live subtitling. Private IM conversations using end to end encryption are not on by default but are an option.
We like Skype because of its ubiquity, but it is still a slightly clunky platform that isn’t the most intuitive. You also have to sign up using a Microsoft account email address and can’t use Google or social logins. It is, however, free.
Zoom launched the same year Microsoft acquired Skype and has since carved out a niche as an enterprise-focused video communications tool. It has risen in popularity dramatically over the past few months as people seek out ways to stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family during the Covid-19 crisis as many are confined to their homes.
The rise of Zoom is mainly down to increased usage by schools and businesses, showing how the company has one-upped Skype at its own game over the last decade. Zoom is free to use and download for all platforms, but limits video calls of three or more people to 40 minutes.
Some might see this as a welcome feature to avoid long meetings, though pay US$14.99 for Zoom’s basic tier and you get a limit of 24 hours. But please don’t have a 24 hour meeting.
Two other tiers cost US$19.99 per month with options of up to 1,000 participants for calls, though only 49 video streams can appear on a screen at once.
Zoom also provides, in the paid tiers, screen-sharing, cloud recording and the option to generate transcripts. Small to medium businesses can also brand Zoom to their company aesthetic if needed.
Unlike Skype, you don’t have to add people as contacts on Zoom. Instead, users can host meetings and send out links to join to the intended participants, creating ‘rooms’ in which to chat.
Zoom doesn’t have Skype’s IM, but does allow for text chats with participants if your mic and camera are off. Bear in mind that these ‘private’ DMs can be downloaded and viewed by the host and admin post-call, so keep it above board if you don’t want to get caught out.
You can download Zoom and sign up with any email or Google or Facebook login, unlike Skype. While any individual can download and use Zoom, it’s clearly geared towards business use.
We recommend Skype if you are looking for a free video call app to call family and friends. It’s even good for small teams who need to catch up when away from the office. Video and audio quality are good, though group chats of over 10 or so people can freeze up.
Zoom has its limits when using the free version but is a better choice for businesses. The app is set up to be a professional tool, unlike the free Skype, and includes more professional collaboration tools. Video quality can be a little unreliable but it’s an easier platform for an administrator to monitor for a large business.