They used to be science fiction, now they're the norm: here's what apps to make video calls with and how many people can join.
To keep in touch with friends and relatives living abroad or in another city, or for the new work demands imposed by the pandemic, online services that allow you to make group video calls have to paradoxically thank Covid-19 for making them live a second youth far happier than the first.
Services like Skype, for example, have always been popular with the people of the web, but before the pandemic, when you could meet without any kind of restriction, VoIP video calls were limited to a relatively small number of circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic has turned habits inside out, and among the many things it has ended up making people re-evaluate and appreciate are video calls. The demand for dedicated apps and services has grown enormously, leading to an exponential growth of already popular services like Skype and those that were less so like Zoom. But how many people can participate in a group video call? The answer varies from service to service.
Skype is one of the best-known services among those considered. Born in Europe in 2003 and taken over by Microsoft in 2011 for over 8 billion dollars, the service supports a multitude of operating systems including macOS, Linux and Windows but also Android, iOS, Palm OS, Xbox and even watchOS, of course with different functions and possibilities.
Skype in fact was not born only for video calls, on the contrary: it was conceived to exchange text messages, images and content of various kinds with the possibility to talk on the phone via the Internet rather than the traditional telephone network. Then, when the stability and speed of internet connections increased, came single and group video calls, which today allow for reunions or virtual meetings of up to 50 users at a time.
WhatsApp certainly needs no introduction. The world's best-known instant messaging service introduced video calls between users in 2016, again via Wi-Fi internet connection or cellular data network. For group video calls it was necessary to wait until September 2018, when WhatsApp allowed to see through a screen up to 4 people.
Recently the limit was raised to 8 participants, but being WhatsApp a service of the Facebook galaxy those who needed to host a larger number of participants can launch directly from the app a Room on Facebook Messenger.
It is precisely on Facebook Messenger, the popular social network's instant messaging service, that WhatsApp's 8-participant limit is raised in a major way. More people can get inside a Room, with group video calls allowing up to 50 users to communicate simultaneously.
Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform "that combines persistent work chat, teleconferencing, content sharing and application integration." It immediately becomes clear that this is a service aimed primarily at a business clientele and how much it is telecommuting-oriented, so even the terminology is different from other services: groups become Meetings in which up to 350 users can participate, up to 49 simultaneously on video.
Zoom is a service that is ideally placed in the middle between business-oriented services like Teams and generalist ones like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. The limitations on the number of participants who can join a video call, however, are among the highest ever: a maximum of 100 users, with the limit - more or less important depending on your needs - that with the free version the video call is interrupted after 40 minutes.