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Skype vs. Zoom: Which video chat app is best?

Coronavirus has many people working and keeping in touch with friends and co-workers from home. Here are two popular video chat options for connecting.

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

While coronavirus restrictions are lifting in some areas, the pandemic is ongoing. Many people are still working from home, and only seeing friends, family and co-workers through video chat apps and services.

While there are many options to choose from, Skype and Zoom are two of the heavy hitters. Here's how the two video chat and conferencing apps compare -- especially in light of Zoom's security and privacy issues

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Microsoft's Skype is a telecommunications app that works for video chats, calls and instant messaging. The app is compatible with Android and iOS, Windows, iPadOS, web browser, Alexa and Xbox. Skype offers multiple subscription plans if you want to call someone's cellphone or landline; otherwise, it's free to use. 

Skype can handle up to 50 people in a single video call, as well, which can come in handy for larger gatherings or business meetings (though Microsoft recommends using its Microsoft Teams video chat service for work purposes). The app allows for calls to be recorded in case someone misses a call. Captions and subtitles are also available for accessibility. Skype has file-sharing capabilities, caller ID, voicemail, a split view mode to keep conversations separate and screenshare on mobile.  

After you create an account, you can start chatting. If you're putting together a call, simply open your profile and click New Chat. Choose New Group Chat, New Chat or New Private Conversation. Whichever option you pick, you'll need to type the group member's name into the search to find them or add them. When you open a chat with another user, you can keep it in instant messenger form with the ability to share files and more, start a video call or create a group. 

You can schedule calls in the app and be alerted through mobile or desktop by turning on the schedule call notifications.  

Skype also recently added a feature called Meet Now that lets you create and share a meeting with a link, with no account required to use the service on the Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome browsers.

Read more: 10 free Zoom alternative apps for video chats

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The Zoom video conference app works for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The app offers a basic free plan that hosts up to 100 participants. There are also options for small and medium business teams ($15 to $20 a month per host) and large enterprises for $20 a month per host with a 50-host minimum. You can adjust meeting times and select multiple hosts. Up to 1,000 users can participate in a single Zoom video call, and 49 videos can appear on the screen at once.

The app has HD video and audio capabilities, collaboration tools like simultaneous screen-sharing and co-annotation, and the ability to record meetings and generate transcripts. Outlook, Gmail and iCal support scheduling and starting meetings. In Gmail, for example, just click the calendar icon, then click the time of your meeting, then click the link under Join Zoom Meeting. If the host scheduled it, there might also be call-in options. 

Read more: 13 Zoom video chat tips, tricks and hidden features

If your mic and camera are off, Zoom has the option to communicate via chat (the interface looks a bit like Slack). This feature can also be helpful if it's a massive all-hands meeting and the opportunity for questions is available. 

It's free to sign up with Zoom -- you can either manually create an account with an email or sign in with Google or Facebook. 

If you use Zoom, it's important to take into consideration the security issues that have come to light since its rapid rise in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Privacy experts have expressed concerns over the video-conferencing software's privacy risks and hacking vulnerabilities, as well as Zoombombing (where uninvited attendees break into and disrupt meetings). 

However, if you're still using the platform, there are some steps you can take to protect your meetings, like using a per-meeting ID and enabling the "Waiting Room" feature so you can see who is attempting to join a meeting before allowing access.

Read more: COVID-19: Everything you need to know to stay healthy and entertained while stuck at home

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