It's all go with video

I remember growing up and thinking, 'Wow. Wouldn't it be great if you could make a phone call and see the person on the other side. It'd be just like science fiction.' This was during the time where on the big screen cars could travel in time and everything looked futuristic.

Tuesday, 30th August 2016, 1:31 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:48 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Well, this is another one of those things that is now science fact. In fact, video calling apps are two a penny these days and the market is going through quite a few changes.

Everyone is surely familiar with Skype. Microsoft bought it a while back now, but neglected to keep the Linux client as up to date as the Windows and Mac clients. Well, times are changing and Microsoft is showing new love for Linux. They surprised everyone recently when they announced there would be a brand new Skype client for Linux, bringing it bang up to date with the latest WebRTC technology (that’s nerd speak). It’s still in the alpha phase of development at the moment, so isn’t complete by any stretch, but it looks promising.

Some of you are likely also familiar with Google Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. Google recently announced that come September, you will no longer be able to start a Hangout On Air from within Google+, but you will be able to start one from Google’s new live streaming service YouTube Live. Some have said that this is Google killing Hangouts and Google+, which isn’t true. Google are repositioning their products and for a very good reason.

Take for instance the news this week that the group video chat app Blab has shut down. It came out of the blue for a lot of people, who had been using it frequently. Blab explained that the shutdown is not permanent, but that they want to rebuild Blab into a place where people can hang out and chat together, not as a broadcast platform. You see there are two types of people that want to use software like this, those that want to chat with friends and colleagues, and those that want to broadcast and basically put on a show.

Catering for both types is hard and explains why Hangouts On Air is going to a good home at YouTube Live.

Now I said Google are repositioning their products. Part of that is the release of their new video chat app called Duo. Whereas Hangouts is all about group communication and Hangouts On Air is about broadcasting those chats, Duo is something else entirely. Using just the phone number of someone you know (and of course Duo), you can now have a private one to one video call with them. Duo also has a nifty little feature called Knock, which lets you see the person calling before you answer. No more wondering who is on the other end of the line, because you’ll be able to see them right there on your screen. Oh and unlike Apple’s FaceTime, which iPhone users have had for a long time, Duo is available on both Android and iOS platforms. That means pretty much anybody with a smartphone can make video calls to anybody else.

I can’t wait to try out the new app, but I do wonder. What will the future bring?