Is Skype Better Than Zoom for Video Calls?

By Jack SteinLast Updated Jul 20, 2020 6:13:53 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Gabriel Benois/Unsplash

Skype is a well-known chatting platform that’s gained a strong foothold in the video-call industry, having been in the game since 2003. The radical changes worldwide in the way we’ve started working and communicating due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, have contributed to the surge in popularity of another video-call application: Zoom.

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According to some reports, the number of daily users of Zoom jumped from 10 million to 200 million as people began working from home in the wake of COVID-19’s spread, making it the leading video-conference client in the United States. This attention raises the question of whether Skype is still better than Zoom, despite the growing popularity of the latter. Take a look at how both stack up against each other.

Skype: How It All Started

Although many people view Skype as one of the pioneers of free, internet-based video-call programs, it wasn't the first company to offer the services it does. For instance, Yahoo Chat, which was introduced several years before Skype, also had a video-chat feature, albeit in very low resolution. Skype's initial claim to fame was that it was the first chatting platform to offer high-fidelity, voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) service, which essentially made overseas calls free for anyone with a computer and an internet connection. With the steep international calling fees associated with phones during the time, Skype became an instant hit.

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Photo Courtesy: Matthew Henry/Burst

About five years had passed after Skype's launch when the company's then-CEO Josh Silverman had developers focus on improving the video-call feature of the application. Skype was able to offer high-definition video calls with its 4.0 version. Further improvements to its video-call capabilities came along with Microsoft's acquisition of Skype in 2011. These included Facebook integration, screen sharing during video calls and group calls with Skype version 5.3.

In 2012, Skype was arguably the leading application for making free, internet-based video calls. Its number of users increased when Microsoft decided to do away with its Messenger chat service in favor of Skype. The move essentially migrated Messenger users to Skype, which continued to integrate practical communication features, including Messenger's instant-messaging, file-sharing and screen-sharing capabilities. Since then, Skype has become a standard for online video, voice and chat communications.

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Meet Zoom, the “Unicorn”

In somewhat of a coincidence, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan founded the company in the same year that Microsoft acquired Skype — 2011. Zoom's launch came two years later in 2013. While its popularity grew exponentially because of the pandemic, to its own credit, Zoom experienced exceptional growth in the years immediately after its launch, too.

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Its rapid increase in revenue and projected growth led experts to deem it a "unicorn," and the company soon had a valuation of $1 billion. Even before the global onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when the platform started getting more attention, Zoom shares jumped by 72% on its first day of trading in April 2019, making it one of the more profitable tech IPOs for the year.

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What Makes Zoom an Appealing Video-Call Platform?

Zoom offers many of the same features that are available with Skype — and then several extras. These extras are the features that give Zoom an edge if you’re looking for a conferencing platform to use for business purposes. Zoom's main claim to fame is that it has become synonymous with virtual online video conferences, but it helps to take a look at the numbers. Skype limits participants to just 50 per conversation, while Zoom can host conferences with up to 100 participants in its free version. If you’re willing to pay, however, you can access Zoom calls that allow up to 1,000 participants. For large companies, Zoom can be ideal.

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Photo Courtesy: Julia M Cameron/Pexels

While other video-conference platforms are also available, Zoom offers more efficient and practical features that make video conferencing simple and convenient. Its users swear by its ability to remain stable even with hundreds of video call participants. It also generates individual meeting URLs, which makes access easier, and it has features like virtual hand-raising and the ability to break participants into groups — both of which facilitate company meetings well. One downside? On the free version of Zoom, meetings are limited to 40 minutes. Once you enter the paid plans, meeting durations jump to 24 hours.

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Where Does Skype Have an Edge?

Skype is an ideal video-call tool for you if you’re already familiar with it and if you plan to use it to connect with family and friends instead of attending meetings. Because you’re already familiar with how it works, there's no pressing need for you to switch to a new platform. It provides you with all the features that you need to make video calls. When you mainly want a way to stay in touch with loved ones, the other features that come with Zoom probably won’t be of much use to you unless you want to get in touch simultaneously with 50 or more people for a big reunion.

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This pioneering video-chat tool is also popular for its good video and audio quality for video calls. If you took a long hiatus from using Skype, you may need to relearn some of its new functions and familiarize yourself with its new interface; Microsoft made major design changes in 2017 and 2018.

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When Is Zoom the Video-Conferencing Platform of Choice?

Zoom shines best in video calls with a large number of participants. It holds up well even in virtual conferences with hundreds of people connected to a single meeting. The features and functions are intuitive and simplify the management of a huge number of participants, which is more convenient for the meeting host. Zoom works well for large team management, online webinars, lectures and classes. That’s why, during the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom became the video-chat tool of choice for people working and studying at home and for big virtual gatherings like parties, reunions and church services.

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Photo Courtesy: Chris Montgomery/Unsplash

There are video-call situations in which Skype is a better choice than Zoom. Ultimately, it’s wise for you to familiarize yourself with both applications. As experts predict a "new normal" as far as human interaction is concerned in light of COVID-19, these two tools may continue to prove to be indispensable in the days, weeks and years to come.

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