Back in the 1980’s it wasn’t unusual for your boss to ask you to make a “Xerox” of a document. In fact, the use of the name Xerox as a verb forced the company to protect its copyright and continues to have a campaign to remind the public that Xerox cannot be used as a verb.
Fast-forward to today’s use of video chat apps. The Xerox of today is Skype. Many Americans might be caught in conversation asking one another to “Skype me.” In reality there are at least 10 such apps used today by both young and old alike. These include: OoVoo, Skype, Facetime, Tango, Google Hangouts, Peer, Viber, CamFrog, QikShare and Fring
Although each app has its own place in the market – they pretty much provide similar services in different ways. However, as we often say about Social Media – your information is only as private as the person with whom you’re chatting. Everything now days can be recorded, saved and distributed – as you will read in this one community Skype forum.
While most of us won’t get caught up in such extortion, it is important to understand the many new video chat apps that are on the market. Let’s take a quick look at each.
You may access Oovoo through your Facebook account. The ease of use has made this a favorite for many young users. It also integrates your Facebook contacts – which makes it easy for reaching out to any of your Facebook friends. Not happy just talking to a few people simultaneously? Oovoo allows up to up 12 BFF to chat the night away. Like most such apps it’s free and available on most major smartphone platforms.
The granddaddy of them all is Skype. As of this writing the Microsoft app had over 300 million users accessing the program for voice chats, and instant messaging. Given its long history its early adopters are large in number and have helped to spread the word over the years.
This free app is easy to use – only requiring that you enter a first name and a phone number or email address to get started. NO passwords are required. It’s available on Android, IOS and Window devices and provides simple games to play while you’re chatting.
One of the most popular video chat apps is Face Time. This simple app — which is built into and only available on IOS devices provides an easy interface for fast and efficient video calls via wi-fi or through your carrier connection. Although the app is a bit Spartan compared to others – it’s quick, efficient and requires no setup.
Although Google Hangouts has not reached the level of active users as other similar apps, it has its advantages. It has the obligatory features such as voice and video chat and instant messaging; in addition to being able to share the screen with a total of 10 other users. You can also share emojis and photos. Additionally, Hangouts provides live, public streamed video chats. This is great for meetings and education applications.
Haven’t heard of QikShare – or more commonly known as Qik? Well, you’re not alone. But it has its users. Qik allows users to both record and publish videos to their live Qik feed. This provides a means to share videos across other social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook – while also allowing users to share through email and text messages.
Like many apps today Qik uses cloud services such as DropBox and quite creatively allows users to share videos by “bumping” phones.
Parents need to know that it’s built-in recording capability could create issues if there is anything of an embarrassing nature that took place during the chat.
We can’t forget our business users when it comes to video chat. Although there are many platforms for video conferencing in the business world, they are often quite expensive. Peer attempts to solve that problem. The app syncs with LinkedIn so that contacts may communicate outside the clumsy norm of LinkedIn emails.
It also allows users to send videos or text-based invitations to connect.
Once limited to making video calls through their desktop application, users can now access Viber video through their smartphones. Viber also has an added advantage of allowing the sharing of your location and files? Like the other usual suspects, Viber handles others features such as free texting, calling, and photo messages.
Viber also provides support for up to 40 voice-only participants. However, outside of THE VIEW, who knows 40 people that want to talk simultaneously?
Just when you thought the world needed another chat room, some really bright programmers unleashed the power and furry of CamFrog. This unusual program has many of the features of other similar apps – with the added feature of chat rooms. And of course every parent was hoping their kids had access to more chat rooms.
It too is available for free via iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
Are you looking for an inexpensive way to dial landlines? Fring might be your answer. Although not free, Fring might offer the least expensive means of calling your tethered family and friends. However, it also provides the free and obligatory features such as group video chats, instant messaging, video messaging, and picture messaging. An added advantage of Fring is that you don’t need to create a typical account. Rather, you may simply register your cell number.
Each of these apps were created to provide efficient and at times FREE communication between two or more parties. None were created with nefarious purpose in mind. It is almost always the users that generate the bad reputation for any app.
This app reputation is what often casts a long shadow of concern for worrying parents. Kids can and often do make mistakes.
As a parent, the biggest area of concern for any of these apps is if any sensitive information is communicated such as inappropriate words, sexual activity or bullying the conversation can easily be recorded through built-in or other third party apps such as http://www.evaer.com/. The recorded conversation or activity can then be easily shared to humiliate or entrap the other users. Privacy through apps and websites is only as secure as the other party will allow.
Another issue concerns leaking of data. In 2014 several article were written about such apps leaking the private information of users. One such article in Forbes suggested Skype had a bug in its code allowing personal, confidential company group chats to leak to former employees. Although this bug has been addressed, one must never assume that it is the end to such issues.
Another story that year named other “free calling and messengers apps such as Tango, Nimbuzz and Kik, had bugs that let the researchers pilfer images, location points and videos. Nimbuzz was also caught storing user passwords in plain text.”
Our current reality is that the world of apps is growing so quickly. So much so that many such programs are not well vetted before being added to the various app stores. As such, the guinea pigs are often the early adopters of the programs. As long as you are aware of the reality of our brave new world, you can venture forth being well armed to deal with the possible consequences.
Should you allow your children to use such apps?
The answer is based on the maturity level of each child. Additionally, you need to know with whom they’re chatting. Unlike the days of the “gentleman caller” seated in the parlor chatting with your daughter – video chats allow anyone to chat with anyone at any time and any place. That’s a big responsibility for the naïve, inexperienced teen. It’s also what pedophiles count on.
Lastly, as I always suggest in our parent presentation, you must consider “tech free zones” in your home. You wouldn’t allow your son or daughter to have their boyfriend or girlfriend in their bedroom as they’re preparing to go to bed. Yet, with smartphones in the bedroom and bathroom you are providing an enormous temptation to even the best of kids.
Video chat technology provides a great service to millions of families around the globe. I encourage you to use the programs to connect with family and friends around the country or around the world. But beware of what you say and how you say it. Once your words and actions are captured there’s no taking them back.
…and in the next few years when your teen heads off to college you will be using these technologies to stay connected. Instead of complaining to your child that they never call you…You’ll likely remind them to “Skype me.”