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Skype vs Zoom: Which video chat app is right for you?

Skype vs Zoom
(Image credit: Skype/MIcrosoft; Zoom)

We wouldn't have thought to compare Skype vs Zoom a month ago, but everything's changed since we all started working from home. Skype has started promoting its Meet Now feature, which is like Zoom, but without all the baggage of Zoom's privacy and security issues.

Since we'll all likely be home for a while, it's a good time to see how these services differ, and find out if one is better for your needs. Unsurprisingly, Zoom and Skype have a couple of big differences that could shape how you use them.

Getting started with both Zoom and Skype is pretty easy, but after a call or two you'll notice that one has more features — even though it's also got a time limit for larger calls. 

If you haven't left it yet, you might get a lot of use out of our guides for how to use Zoom or how to set up a Zoom meeting. Here's everything you need to know to figure out your choice of Zoom vs Skype.

Skype vs Zoom at a glance

Skype Zoom
Supported devicesWeb browsers, Windows, Mac Windows 10, macOS, Linux (including Ubuntu), iOS, Android and Blackberry
Maximum number of participants50 participants 100 (up to 49 visible at once)
Special featuresBlur my background, react emoji, call recording Custom virtual backgrounds, end to end encryption, HD video and audio
Is there a free tier?YesYes
Is there a premium tier?Yes, for calling internationally Zoom Pro ($14.99 per month per host) - 24 hour meeting duration
RecordingRecordings are stored for up to 30 days.1GB of cloud recording in Zoom Pro

Why you should use Skype

The ease of setup for Skype Meet Now is impressive. Just visit this page and click "create a free meeting." Then, you get a link you can share for invitations (tap the Copy icon to drop it into your clipboard) and then click Start Call. By contrast, Zoom throws you through a whole sign-up process.

Another reason people might prefer Skype for their video conference calls is that they already have it — whereas Zoom may be new for a lot of folks. Well before quarantines and sheltering in place, I've used Skype for interviews for job applications, recording podcasts and other various needs. Skype became a standard for these kinds of calls because Skype is already everywhere, with apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS. 

Skype Meet Now also lets you blur your background. This isn't as cool as having a custom background in Zoom, but it's still going to help you out on privacy, so your family or roommates don't have to be involved with your call as they walk by. Just keep in mind that this feature isn't available in the web app. Skype will even store a recording of your meeting for up to 30 days.

And if you don't want to download or install software — or simply cannot, as your company regulates anything you want to install — you can just use Skype Meet Now over the web (which Zoom also offers). 

When I'm looking to see my friends and family for a video call, I often need at least both my parents, or two friends, so I might opt for Skype Meet Now, which doesn't seem to have a time limit. By contrast, Zoom group meetings, aka calls with 3 or more people, have a 40 minute time limit. If you need more than that, you'll have to upgrade to Zoom Pro, the $15 per month service with a 24-hour meeting cap.

Why you should use Zoom

Zoom is the more impressive voice chat service. While Skype's Meet Now offers a grid view, Zoom lets you see up to 49 people at once, in pairs of large 5x5 grids (trying to figure it out? Here's how to see everyone on Zoom).

The maximum limit on simultaneous callers is also higher on Zoom, which lets you bring in 100 participants on the line at once. That's twice as much as you get with Skype Meet Now, which doesn't have a Premium version. Skype's only paid feature is international long distance calling.

Bosses looking for 1-to-1 meetings with their direct reports will be satisfied with Zoom, as there's no limit to those meetings.

Zoom also has more fun tricks up its sleeve (possibly to liven the mood after trolls invade your Zoom). It's nice that Skype has a messaging room where you can share messages and photos, but our guide on how to change your Zoom background provides Zoomers with a real way to liven up their calls. This way, your background can be a photo of your choice that will match your mood or personality, and pretend you're somewhere other than your couch or temporary home office.

Zoom's web app is available for those who can't download, and its feature set is much more limited, just like Skype Meet Now in a web browser.

Outlook

Skype is more than just the video call app you knew it as, with this new easy way to start conference calls without downloading an app — or making an account. Its ease of use makes Skype Meet Now a great option, but it's still the more limited of the two.

If you're using strong passwords and understand Zoom's privacy settings, there's no reason not to Zoom, unless you're hitting those time limit caps. Either way, it's great that both are relatively simple to set up, as you can easily jump to the other if one doesn't work well.