Skype has been front and centre to web based voice and video communication for many years (est. 2003). It has under various guises managed to sustain an open platform (supporting many common platforms), and the continued addition of new features and functionality:
Phones and mobiles
Group video calling
The increase in feature set, has opened it up to greater competition and pressure in other markets. In the main it’s always being loved by consumers, but largely shunned by businesses or enterprise because on the mistrust of the proprietary internet telephony protocol : Skype Protocol and peer to peer architecture.
Google + Hangouts are very much the new kid on the block for voice and video communication. Based upon the more traditional client-server architectural model and it relies on the extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMPP), extensions to XMPP like Jingle, real-time transport protocol (RTP), session traversal utilities for NAT (STUN) and secure real-time transport protocol. (reference : howstuffworks-googleplus)
- Share button under any YouTube video to reveal an icon that suggests watching the video with friends in a Google+ hangout
- Mobile Hangouts (for Android, coming soon to iOS) are available since the service went public.
- Hangouts On-Air gives users the ability to create instant webcasts over Google+. The broadcasts can also be recorded for later retrieval. This feature, announced at September 20, 2011, is at the moment limited to some videocast personalities, but the announcement indicates that it will be opened up. The first publicly-broadcasted Hangout will be with the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am on the night of September 21, 2011.
- Hangouts with Extras, currently at a preview state, will allow users to share documents, share a scratchpad and share their screens with other users
Both services are very easy to use, but I can Google winning out with the overall integration, as it has a more comprehensive set of services offerings to affiliate with Google+ hangouts. Whereas Skype is a pure play service and needs partnership opportunities to bring into play in different modes and circumstances (mobile and social media).
In terms of performance, my limited experience guides me to believe, Google+ Hangouts are best operated in-country, to get optimised performance and fidelity of transmission. In the UK I’ve used it without issue, but hanging out with folks in the US or Europe does introduce a degradation to the service. Skype on the other hand performs both well in-country and internationally, I switched Skype to video chat with family in Europe after the hangout sessions crashed repeatedly. I don’t know how this reflects back on the architecture or the resourcing of the services from both providers, but I suspect the experience of Skype from many years of being in-service plays a part in delivering a more refined and quality service.
Whether Hangouts will out gun Skype is still too difficult to predict, especially since Skype has new relationships with Microsoft and Facebook, so I will continue to operate both services and see how things develop.