You may not have heard of ooVoo, but this relatively new video chat program could be worth a look, especially if you need to be able to conduct three-way video calls.
The free version supports voice and video calls with other ooVoo users - and you can have two or three talking heads participating in a given call. ooVoo also lets you record video messages, create a video chatroom, and whisk files (of up to 25MB) off to various recipients.
Navigating through ooVoo is a bit like hanging out in the spacious foyer of a stylish boutique hotel: the app is decked out in black and silvery-gray hues that are easy on the eyes - a welcome change from ice-pack white. It's easy to find what you need, too, such as icons to initiate a video call, send a file, record a message, and start a text chat.
ooVoo's default video call window looks very sleek. The well-designed, angled video screens are the same size and sit side by side. (With Skype, the look is very different: by default, one party's video screen is snapshot-size and is superimposed on a larger screen.)
Video quality on ooVoo is impressive. The video streams in our tests were generally smooth with little distortion. Skin tone colours seemed a tad bland, though. Audio quality was solid for the most part: Voices sounded clear, but we noticed a considerable amount of echo during calls, which proved to be distracting.
Speaking of distracting, the free version of ooVoo comes at a price of another kind: incessant ads that are anything but subtle. In fact, they span the bottom of the videoconferencing window. Ads appeared in all the text chat windows, too; and we found their presence incredibly annoying and difficult to tune out.
The new version of ooVoo lets users who do not have ooVoo software installed call you over the web. Here's how it works: within ooVoo, you click a button where you type your friend's email address (and type a message, if you want). ooVoo pings the recipient with an invitation to start a web call. Then, at the other end, your pal can call you, using a browser. As long as your friend has a web cam hooked up, the same video call window pops up, and the overall experience is the same as with a regular ooVoo video call.
ooVoo also offers some fee-based services: For $10 a month, its Super plan includes six-party video chats, the ability to record video calls, and up to 1000 minutes of video storage. In addition, the ads will go away. And like Skype, ooVoo offers plans for calling landline and cell phone numbers, starting at $5 per month.
If you're not already hooked on Skype, where you connect with all your key contacts and friends, give ooVoo a try. You may have a higher tolerance for ads than we do. Of course, it means that you'll have to reach out to your contacts to call you using their browser or to install the ooVoo software.