Folks who prefer their long-distance communications to be of the face-to-face variety have a new option for multi-person pow-wows, as Skype announced on Monday that group video calling is now a free feature on the desktop version of the Windows Skype client, Macs, and the Xbox One, with support for additional platforms—including the Modern UI Skype app baked into Windows 8.1—coming in the future.
Previously, at least one caller needed an $8.99 per month Skype Premium subscription to organize a group video chat. Google Hangouts has offered group video calling for free for several years now; with Google+ chief Vic Gundotra recently leaving Google for greener pastures, the Microsoft-owned Skype appears to be striking while the iron is hot.
Skype's group video calling supports anywhere from three to ten participants, but the company says five or fewer video callers hits the sweet spot. The newly free group video calling isn't the only big perk Skype's rolled out recently. Windows Phone 8.1 will (finally!) feature deep Skype integration, allowing you to seamlessly transfer a traditional voice call over to a video chat, assuming both people have Skype installed on their phones—though the feature didn't work when we tried calling an Android phone with Skype installed. Skype also improved the performance of its mobile apps and cross-platform message syncing this past February.