Can you see me now? WhatsApp introduces video calling

Move over FaceTime -- there's a new video-chat app in town. 

WhatsApp is expanding its service to include video calling, and with its already huge user base, it is bound to make its mark on the sector. But what makes WhatsApp's service stand out?

In IT Blogwatch, we make the call. 

So what is going on? Steven Musil gives us the background:

FaceTime and Skype have a new rival in the video-chat market: WhatsApp.
The maker of the hugely popular messaging and voice app will...add the ability to place free video calls from within the app. The expected to be available in the coming days [and] will allow the app's...users to speak face to face with friends and family, regardless of whether they are using Android, iPhone and Windows devices...The Facebook-owned app reached a milestone in February when it announced it had reached the 1 billion users mark.

And how exactly does it work? David Steele has the details:

During a conversation...users will see a call button at the top right of the screen. Tapping this pulls up a dialogue box asking users if they wish to video or voice call. Once in a video call, which works over either Wi-Fi or a mobile data network, customers can switch the camera used, mute and unmute...and of course hang up. There are currently cosmetic differences between the Android and iOS clients...but WhatsApp’s technology is cross platform.

Cross platform is great. But will video calling be consistent across regions? Kurt Wagner has an answer:

WhatsApp...has a reputation for doing few things, but doing them very well. Video calling will be no quality will be highly dependent on each user’s available bandwidth. This will be key given that many of WhatsApp’s...users live in emerging markets like Brazil and India, where wireless networks are often poor.

Aside from cross-platform functionality, is there anything else that makes WhatsApp video calling special? Joseph Menn can think of a few things:

WhatsApp, is adding fully encrypted video calling to its messaging app...WhatsApp...adopted end-to-end encryption early this year...The new video calling service will thus provide another means for people to communicate without fear of eavesdropping.
The video service...[also] adds a few twists. Users can move around the thumbnail video showing what their correspondent sees and flick a video the side to minimize it while checking texts or email.

But why is WhatsApp bringing video calling to the service when there are so many other video-chat apps out there? We let the WhatsApp team tells us themselves:

We’re introducing this feature because we know that sometimes voice and text just aren’t enough...And we want to make these features available to everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive...phones or live in countries with the best cellular networks.
Over the years we’ve received many requests...for video calling, and we’re excited to finally offer this feature to the world...we promise to keep working hard every day to improve the service.

And are users excited for the change? Asyraf HighTech certainly is:

WhatsApp launches video call!...wooohooo! bye 2 FaceTime!

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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