Skype embraces video-calling

Web-calling giant Skype has stepped up the fight with its instant messaging foes by adding support for video telephony in its latest software. It's o

Web-calling giant Skype has stepped up the fight with its instant messaging foes by adding support for video telephony in its latest software.

It's only available in the beta testing stage at the moment, but you can get the download now and use a webcam to have free video banter with other Skype 2.0 users.

The new feature brings Skype up to date with instant messaging competitors like MSN Messenger, AOL and Yahoo who all already have the option of video link-ups.

The software also has other features that will be familiar to IM stalwarts – 'presence functions' let you display your time zone and even your mood to other users so you're not interrupted while you're having a snooze, and users of Microsoft Outlook can now install a toolbar for instant links to other Skypers online.

Another potentially cool extra (well, cool in an outstandingly geeky sense) is the announcement from web blog company Six Apart that it will be offering links to Skype in its Typepad blog service. This means you could be reading an interesting blog, and instantly start talking to the author via a link if they're online.

The software may only be in the beta stage, but there's already plenty of webcams to choose from – Creative has just announced its WebCam Instant Skype Edition (above), which comes with a headset, software, a stand-alone microphone for group chats and a free 30 minutes of SkypeOut, the PC-to-landline or mobile phone service. It'll cost £28 from Creative's website from 5th December.

Logitech will also be getting in on the act by offering its own webcams from Skype's web store. Looks like it's time to shed the telephone's traditional cloak of anonymity, and start having a face-to-face with your computer.

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