Luxemborg-based and eBay-owned Skype launched its newest version, Skype 4.0, on Wednesday with new features and a layout that makes video its primary component and pictures easier to see in cell phone calls. The beta version of Skype 4.0 comes with drastic upgrades that aim to take advantage of Web cameras that were previously a scarce commodity. Within the last year, such cameras have come standard on many computers, and independently bought cameras have sold more.
Skype 4.0 software makes video-chatting easier and the primary component of the communications service by offering full-screen video chats, picture-in-picture, and a large "Video Call" button.
The previous Skype version, offered in 2005, made it more complicated to access video chat because the service and tools users needed were still new and being developed. Video chats were confined to small-screens.
The newest version also enables users to import contacts from applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and email services Hotmail and Yahoo.
In addition, users can import videos from Web sites Metacafe and DailyMotion.
Significantly left off both of these lists are Google-owned Web sites Gmail and YouTube.
Skype's framework enables users to share bandwidth when needed, meaning someone who needs more can borrow from someone who has some to spare.
Since the company's inception in 2003, Skype has steadily grown into a dominant communications provider for users to make computer calls, either to other computers (and make use of the video service) or to mobile or landlines. Skype users calling each other through their computers do so for free, while calls to landlines or cell phones carry a small fee.
The number of users has also increased, with more than 309 registered users worldwide. With the new video remodeling, that number may increase.
By Danny Scuderi
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