Looking for a free group video-calling service, to call multiple people in multiple places on multiple types of devices? Well now there might be an answer to that!! Recently, a small Silicon Valley start-up called Zoom Video Communications launched a new, independent, service called Zoom.us. The service which works over wired and Wi-Fi Internet connections, or cellular 3G and 4G networks, offers free, high-definition, group video calls for up to 15 people simultaneously.
Users can do group video chatting, text chatting and also share a computer screen with the other group members. It works on Macs, Windows PCs, iPhones and iPads, and any group call can be made with a mix of these devices. Soon, an android version of the app will be available too.
In order to use Zoom, users have to download the free Zoom app. PC & Mac users can download it from http://zoom.us website; iPhone & iPad users can download it from Apple’s app store. When a user visits the site, and clicks on “start” or join a video meeting, it downloads the app.The interface is simple, and users don’t have to join a new social network to use it.
To initiate a call, users have to possess, and log in with, either a Gmail address or a Facebook account. However, the people a user invites to join a call needn’t have these credentials, or even log in. The user can just send them an invitation with a link via email, instant message, or text message, or even phone them to provide a link and an ID number for the call. If they already have the Zoom app, the link takes them right into the call. If not, the app downloads and installs so they can join the meeting. Users can even invite added people to join a call while it’s in progress.
When a group Zoom call is in progress, the person speaking occupies most of the screen and all others are shown in a row of small boxes. When a new person interjects, Zoom waits from one to three seconds to make sure it isn’t picking up a random cough or some background noise and then places the new speaker in the main, large view.
However, the interface is slightly different on a computer, tablet, or phone. e.g. because the iPhone screen is much smaller, a user has to swipe to a second screen to see the minimized faces of those who aren’t speaking at the moment.
The screen sharing feature only works from computers. It allows any one person to display to all others—regardless of the device they’re using—any open window or document on his or her PC or Mac. For privacy purposes, if a user has to dig into the computer to fetch a file that isn’t already open, he/she has to stop screen sharing, and then restart that function. Users can share a variety of files, including photos, Word documents, Web pages and PowerPoint decks. The text chatting feature allows for private side discussions.
Unlike Google Hangouts, Zoom is a standalone service. It is not a social network, although it piggybacks on the Gmail or Facebook chat systems, so it can display your contacts and friends, allowing you to quickly invite them to a call. Currently this video calling service is entirely free, but later the company might impose charges based on time used.