Microsoft’s video and voice chat tool Skype will now support double the number of participants previously supported alongside a couple of other changes, according to a recent announcement from the company. The change applies to both audio-only and video sides of the chat service, allowing as many as 50 users to take part at once.
Users will need the latest version of Skype to get started and, following extensive testing, there are a few other changes landing simultaneously to ensure things don't become too hectic.
Chiefly, those center around how users are notified of incoming calls and how the service focuses on a given user during the call. If a group has fewer than 25 participants, nothing will change and a standard ring notification will be used. For larger groups, a text-based invitation will be sent and individual users can be selected to be notified via a ring. The notification will ping users and inform them that the chat is starting.
With larger groups, the UI will also shift to show only the person who is currently communicating, making it easier to follow a discussion. Users will be able to select a specific user to focus on too.
Other recent changes to make Skype more competitive
The recent change to allow a larger group of participants in a Skype video or audio call should make the platform much more competitive. By comparison to services such as Apple's FaceTime or Google's current consumer version of Hangouts, the maximum number of users who can take part will now effectively be double what's offered by the competition too. Increases in the participant figure are not the only change Microsoft has implemented recently to that end.
In November, Microsoft also added the ability to make Skype calls to and from Alexa-enabled hardware -- stacking on top of its already widespread availability across both mobile and desktop platforms. That required some relatively easy adjustments, such as linking a Skype account to Amazon, and availability was limited to the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, and the United Kingdom. Users who had set up the service with Alexa could make and receive phone calls via voice commands.
What platforms can take advantage of 50-caller group chats?
Microsoft's associated press images seem to be focused exclusively on desktop iterations of the tool but it hasn't clarified exactly where it's 50-caller calling feature is rolling out. Summarily, the company hasn't explicitly excluded any platforms or expressly indicated which platforms it is available for. That's coupled with several discrepancies in its support pages for the service -- which still states that only one through twenty-four participants can take part, even on Windows.
All of that means that isn't immediately obvious whether users on Android, iOS, and other platforms will be able to initiate a call with 49 other users. Due to its business-ready nature, Skype's features haven't been platform specific in order to ensure that users on any platform can call or interact with other users regardless of which platform the receiving party happens to be on. So it shouldn't be too long before the new feature arrives on the Android app variation of Skype if it hasn't already.