I've been writing all week about the pros and cons of iChat AV and the power of video conferencing in general. Today I want to take a look at a new option for video chatting that I recently discovered.
If you're frustrated by the performance of iChat AV there's a little known alternative (at least to me) that a couple readers referred me to. SightSpeed is a cross-platform IM application that does video conferencing - the only application that can claim this.
The basic client is free and the video and audio quality are phenomenal - far superior to iChat. There are far fewer configuration hassles than iChat according to one reader. The Basic service includes unlimited audio calls, 1-to-1 video calls and 30 second video mail messages that are stored for 30 days.
If you spring for the Pro service (US$5 per month or US$50 per year) you get all of the above plus unlimited multi-party calls (maximum four participants), 60 second video mail messages that are stored for the life of your subscription and priority tech support.
One of the problems for me is that SightSpeed isn't interoperable with AIM or other services, so it's not a good option for IM users that have a huge investment in their AIM/iChat buddy lists. However, SightSpeed is a viable option for business users and people that need to have high quality video chats with people in far away places.
SightSpeed also offers a voice calling service (ala Skype Out) that allows you to call regular telephones anywhere in the world inexpensively. For example, calling Germany, the UK and US costs around 2 cents per minute.
In early testing SightSpeed appears to be more CPU intensive than iChat, but it seems to get around Firewalls and NAT much better than iChat. One reader using SightSpeed tells me that it's better than iChat but not perfect:
I did get a message about insufficient bandwidth while conferencing with a friend in France once, but I assume that his upload speed truly was inadequate, and most importantly, SightSpeed didn't refuse the connection but rather simply informed me that the video image would have a lower resolution.Another unique feature of SightSpeed is video email. Even with the free account, you can use your iSight or other web cam to record a 30 second video message for someone, which is uploaded. The recipient gets an email with a link to a Web page on which they can play the video.
Finally an alternative to iChat! If you'd like to test SightSpeed feel free to contact me, my handle is in the TalkBack below.
I plan on testing SightSpeed's Pro service in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for an update.