According to the Washington Post, Skype is planning a major improvement to its online calling and video chat service. Next week, the company will be rolling out the ability to do group video chats with up to five participants. However, the news isn't all good.
According to Skype's general manager of consumer business, Neil Stevens, the company plans to initially launch the feature for Windows based computers as a free addition to their current services. Mac support will follow later in the year. After three or four months, Skype plans to charge for the new functionality. This will be in addition to other, new, paid, features that will be rolling out at the same time. There's no word on what those other features are.
A competing service called Oovoo, recently changed their group video chatting into a paid service. They offer the functionality at a monthly fee, or at 10 cents per minute, per user. Previously, the service was free. Perhaps Skype wants to ensure that people don't flock elsewhere for all their video chatting needs. By starting it as a free service, Skype will attempt to get users hooked on the new feature so that when they begin charging, people will stick around.