Skype refuses to go quietly into video calling’s good night. Everyone’s first video calling love just keeps adapting and evolving and flat out giving away free stuff in order to cling to the edges of the video calling market.
Microsoft’s latest Skype sweetener is a major increase to its group video call size. They’ve doubled it from 25 to 50 simultaneous callers. The move comes just months after Apple expanded FaceTime’s maximum video call participant number out to a seemingly randomly chosen 32. Perhaps there’s enough juice left in the old tech rivalry to motivate Microsoft to bump up its maximum participant numbers, too?
Regardless, the move leaves us a little confused as to why the expansion was necessary. The previous maximum Skype video call number of participants was fine just the way it was, considering no one considers Skype a serious business application anymore, not even Microsoft.
So, just who is Microsoft targeting with the increase? Could it be an attempt to save the venerable app from irrelevance?
Skype Isn’t for Business
Microsoft doesn’t want you using Skype in the office anymore. If the introduction of the Skype for Business subscription service didn’t make that clear, then the recent gamble to ditch the Skype brand altogether and force its business clients to switch to Microsoft Teams certainly should. That bold move left Skype with just one revenue-generating function: the ability to lure in uncommitted video callers with a free service before convincing them they’d ultimately be better off paying for the full Teams experience.
We can safely assume that the change in maximum Skype call participants isn’t aimed at the business class.
But then Microsoft announced late last year that is was offering Teams for free. And it wasn’t a bad offer either. While it was feared the free version would be stripped of most of its key functionality as a cold marketing ploy, it turns out that free Teams is actually an acceptable business tool. It offers unlimited video calling, 12 GB of combined team and individual cloud space, a capacity of up to 300 users, and access to Office online.
We can safely assume, then, Skype isn’t intended as an office companion, and the change in Skype video call number of participants isn’t aimed at the business class.
So is this a social service?
Why Boost the Max Skype Video Call Number of Participants?
The only other domain Skype can lay claim to is a social one. It’s likely many of us were first introduced to video conferencing over a social video call on Skype during the previous decade. At its height, Skype was the form of video calling as it was free and often included by default with every PC purchase.
Those days are long over. Messaging is by far the more popular form of digital communication now. In fact, Facebook Messenger attracts more than ten times as many active monthly users as Skype, and Snapchat has it beaten by a factor of six.
The biggest drawback to communicating via video chat over your smartphone is the size of the screen.
Video has become a secondary accessory in today’s digital media scene. WhatsApp and Messenger have video features, as do Snapchat and Instagram. Skype admitted the fact itself by unveiling a chat- and photo-focused makeover in 2017 that unashamedly imitated its younger rivals.
Chat is primarily, however, a smartphone endeavor. You don’t log onto your desktop to send a friend a quick text. By the same token, the biggest drawback to communicating via video chat over your smartphone is the size of the screen. Their pocket-sized convenience has made smartphones the digital hubs of our social lives, but that form factor makes them terrible video calling platforms once you exceed three or four callers.
So, am I supposed to call 49 friends simultaneously on my smartphone? Just who was so socially constrained by a group video calling limit of 25 that they were eager for Skype’s jump to 50? Which leaves us pretty much out of reasons as to why Microsoft needed to so radically increase the maximum participants in Skype group video calls.
Is Skype Nearing Its Final Days?
It may be that Microsoft’s April announcement that Skype would now cater for 50 video callers is just a lot of sound and fury. The early screenshots indicate there’s only enough room for ten callers at a time on the display, with just four of those people given even a quarter-screen of presence. The resulting overlay of live video thumbnails and the potential for an unmoderated cacophony of voices would seem to verge on chaos.
The announcement of Skype’s participant increase creates a contemporary relevance for the service and keeps it fresh in the mind.
If we rule out the business crowd, there would seem to be little demand for 50 simultaneous video callers. That leads us to believe this is just an “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” expansion. Skype still attracts hundreds of millions of users each year worldwide, which is a valuable commodity even if it is largely a legacy of its former glory. The announcement of Skype’s participant increase creates a contemporary relevance for the service and keeps it fresh in the mind.
That said, with its business case stolen by Teams and its social status undercut by dedicated chat platforms, the future doesn’t look bright for Skype. We’ve seen seemingly unstoppable tech giants fall before–Yahoo! and AOL are good examples–and it isn’t hard to imagine Skype going the same way.
So, enjoy the larger than unnecessary group call function. It may be the last gift the one-time king of video has left to bestow upon us.