With group video calling, WhatsApp now takes on Skype, Messenger and more

The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
  • WhatsApp rolls out video group calling on Android Beta and iOS.
  • Facebook Messenger, Skype and Google Hangouts already has this feature.
  • It’s been available for free to users since 2011 on Google Hangouts.
First announced at Facebook’s annual developers conference -- F8 -- the group video calling feature for WhatsApp is now available on the Android and iOS beta versions of the application.

However, WhatsApp has not made the feature available to everyone currently. Reports by WABetaInfo indicate that it’s only available to a ‘few users’ and that you need to be one of the ‘very lucky’ ones to get your hands on it.

But, is it really that big a deal?

Group video calling feature is meant to roll out on Instagram as well, but as of now, there aren’t any reports of the application having received any updates. That being said, group video calling is already an option on Facebook’s official messaging app - Facebook Messenger. Not only is it an option, it’s been available since December 2016. The roll out of the feature on Facebook’s subsidiary application is nearly a year-and-a-half late.

Group video calling is a function that’s nearly as old as video calling itself. Skype, one of the first video calling apps to make a splash in the market, can make group video calls with up 25 people since August 2015. Initially, though, it was Skype 5.0 Beta 2 update that boasted of being able to connect up to 10 people on video call back in September 2010, but it wasn’t free. It was only in 2014 that Skype decided to remove the premium fee.

Before Skype, group video calling was already free on Google Hangouts, and that too, since 2011.

But despite these apps having group video calling prior to WhatsApp or even Facebook Messenger, they have minuscule market shares when compared to Skype. As of April 2018, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger tower over Skype with 1500 and 1300 monthly active users against its 300 active users.

Even in narrowing the scope to India, WhatsApp had 28% of the market share while Facebook Messenger commanded 20% as of Q3 2017. Skype rests at a mere 15% and Google Plus at 19%.

WhatsApp’s new group video calling feature may not be an innovation in itself, but considering its popularity and usage, it’s a feature that should’ve been made available long ago.
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