This wiki looks into all aspects of Video Chat, and the way this new technology affects us. Our group has studied the technology, history, issues, benefits and other characteristics of video chat. Please explore the wiki for information and insight on this new, influential technology and the way society has adopted it.


  1. Technology
  2. History
  3. Issues
  4. Benefits
  5. Additional Details
  6. Links
  7. References



What is Video Chat? 

A virtual communication, that allows for an audio-video connection in real time between two or more users, who are at different locations. Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), webcams and specialized software are used to stimulate a face-to-face conversation. These platforms allow users to see and message one another simultaneously making it easier to convey information. Users have the ability to file and screen share through video sharing sites, allowing for the recipient to not only get a tangible product but can also watch what the other is doing. Making video chat an effective way for a speaker/company to convey information to a large audience as it happens. The software available is inexpensive, seeing as phones, laptops, and tablets all have built in cameras, the user only needs to have access to the Internet and an account. An account for most video software is free with the option of additional charges. 

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) 

  • Voice communications and multimedia sessions that uses Internet Protocol networks to communicate.

The Webcam

  • 1994 quick cam
  • Stationary, personal, camera that uses the Internet to send video and audio. Can be tethered, however, they are more commonly untethered, using Wifi or other networks to allow users to communicate. Untethered webcams represented half of all the video camera sales in 2008. 
  • An example of an untethered webcam would be the a Flip Cam. It has the ability to store small amounts of information and is useful for social networking.  


  • A Microsoft product that was first released in August 2003 by developers Ahti Heinla, Pritt Kasealu, Jan Tallinn, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom. Uses VoIP to transmit information. Skype is a free service that allows video and voice calling, that provides you with the latest updates, instant messages and file sharing. The Skype website states, "Calling, seeing messaging and sharing with others - wherever they are." This is a peer-to-peer driven network, however, it is also a client-server system. There are optional paid service that allows you to call mobiles and landlines worldwide, send text messages, and group calling of up to 10 people. With rates in Canada of 2.7 cents per minute, subscriptions starting at $2.99 a month and 12.6 cents a message. As of 2012, there were 663 million registered users worldwide and can access the application on multiple different technologies such as a laptop, phone, tablet, TV, home phone and Facebook. 
  • Skype has a focus on the video. "Send a message you can see, here and feel with video messaging." Skype has a feature that allows you to leave, like a voice message, a video message. If the user you are trying to reach but they are not online, you can leave a message for the user to see at a later date. 


  • An Apple product that is supported on iOS products and uses VoIP to communicate. FaceTime was announced on October 20, 2010 but was not brought to the App Store until Feb. 24, 2011 for $0.99. However, is offered free on Mac OS Lion onwards. "... You can even make FaceTime calls over cellular networks on iPhone and iPad. And be there in person, even when you're not." All you need is an Apple ID and you can connect anyone else who uses an Apple product, whether it be an iPod, iPad, or Mac. When using FaceTime, with the exclusion of the Mac, you have two cameras so that the recipient can view you or see what you are viewing.
  • FaceTime is incompatible with non-Apple devices or other video calling services. You have to have an Apple product to use it. However, you connect others whenever and are not restricted with other users being online or offline. 
  • FaceTime Audio
    • Audio only version released on September 18, 2013. 


  • "Apple (Canada) - IOS 7 - FaceTime." Apple (Canada) - IOS 7 - FaceTime. N.p., 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

  • Connolly, P J. "Facing Video Chat Reality." Trades Journal 44th ser. 27.16 (2010): n. pag.
  • Muchmore, Michael. "Skype 4.0." Editorial. PC 14 Feb. 2009: n. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

  • "Skype Home Page." Skype. N.p., 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
  • York, Matthew. "Webcams." Videomaker. N.p., June 2009. Web.


The history of video chat begins with the invention of the telephone and in the collective imagination of the audience it inspired. Ever since that famous 1876 conversation culture had imagined a world with video communication and it has made many appearences throughout science fiction history. However, the technical requirments to make video chat a reality was tough, let alone making a video chat which worked as flawlessly as sci-fi depicted it. The road to smooth and reliable video chat is long and filled with multiple technical feats and innovations, but, its origins were in the work of french illustrator George du Maurier in 1878.


On October 9, 1876 the first two way telephone conversation took place between the inventor Alexander Graham Bell in Walworth Boston and Thomas G. Watson in Cambridgeport Massachusetts. This is a conversation which lit up the imagination of the global community and revaluating many ideas about what is technically possible.This telephone call as well as moving picture technology were brought together by the imagination George du Maurier, illustrator of the British magazine Punch. In 1878 he famously illustrated the first concept of a video conversation using aspects of projection and telephony to depict parents observing their children playing. This concept became popularized in victorian sci-fi and was recreated in many avenues such as postcards.


George du Maurier's 1878 illustration

Victorian scifi

A French card from 1910

The popularity of this theoretical technology became very prolific in sci-fi media throught history. A few examples of video chat in sci-fi are exemplified in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), The Jetsons (1962), and Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968).

Space odyssey

Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

1956- Bell LaboratoriesEdit

After many years of dreaming of videotelephony (aka video chat) AT&T built its first test syetem in 1956 in its famous Bell labs. However, their first system was very crude and only transmitted an image every two seconds, far from the hype of video chat depicted in sci-fi. In 1964 the Bell labs developed their first system fit for public testing called the 'mod 1'. Stations were set up at Disneyland in California and the New York Worlds Fair to see how the public would take to the device. The general consensus was of dislike as it impressed at first but, was far too bulky, had unfriendly controls, and a very small picture. AT&T continued to improve on the device but, it seemed the technical sublime the device had in fiction greatly outweighted the reality. Between the 50s and 70s AT&T spent over $500 million on development and it was not until 1970 did a retail product hit the market.

In the 1970's the picturephone 2 (mod 2) was released to the public for retail. It was extpensive at $169 per month the equilivent of $1000 per month today once adjusted for inflation. It was an immense failure with only 100 subscribers in the entire United States.

1969 picturephone set cropped

1980's Digital Telephony and VideoconferencingEdit

Bell labs began their transition to digital telephony in 1947 with their invention of the transistor, followed by innovations such as amplification and circuit switching in the 1950's. The development of computer based electronic switching systems progressed the telephone to move away from analog systems to a digital automated infrastructure. IP (internet protocol) telephony involving digital network technology known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allowed for the revolutionary development of PictureTel corps. first videoconferencing technology.

 On August 13th 1984 PictureTel Corp. was was founded by MIT students Brian L. Hinman, and Jeffery G. Bernstein; and MIT professor David H. Staelin. Their company would become the leading manufacturer of video conferencing technology for use over conventional high-speed phone lines. This would change the business world as video conferencing although, wasn't cheap, was far cheaper than time and travel exprensess. Their initial public offering occured in 1984 and sold 2.2 million shares at $2 per share. They continued developing their product well through to 1985 without having a product to sell. A breakthrough occured in 1986 with their development of the MCT algorithm which reduced the required bandwidth to a mere 224 kilobytes from an initial 768 required to videochat. on July 1986 they quickly rolled out their first video conferencing product a software based codec called C-2000 and utilized their MCT algorithm. Their next product was the V-2100 which conveniently enclosed the video conferencing system into a wheeled cabinet which could set up a conference in any room with adequet wiring. This technology was the first profitable video chat system available to the public as it was widely liked by large corperations that have multiple offices in various locations. Their final big innovation occured in 1993 with a PC based video conferencing technology which could turn any PC into a video chat system.

1280px-Polycom VSX 7000 with 2 video conferencing screens

Polycom later acquired PictureTel Corp. and continued leading development of video conferencing technology

1990's Edit

AT&T continued to push for a video phone and released the 2500 model in 1992 but, like previous iterations it was expensive at $1500 and the video lagged about 5 seconds behind the sound. Video chat systems on phones would not be popularized until the power of Smartphones could eliminate the lag issues.

In 1994 a pivitol invention of the Quickcam by Connectix occured, although, it would not be advertised as such the Quickcam became the first webcam for a mass market. Video-conferencing had already existed at this point for large companies but, this was the first real affordable video chat technology available to the public. It was only available for Apple Macintosh for $100, and had a range of only 16 shades of grey, resolution of 320x240, and a frame rate of 15 fps. Despite the lack luster specs of the Quickcam compared to today's webcams it was a huge leap and facilitated the webcam culture of today. It was even recognized in 2010 when it was elected in Time Magazine's top 100 gadgets of all time. Quickcam was acquired by Logitech in 1998 and is still one of the most recognized webcam brands today.

In 1996 Panasonic experimented with its first prototpye of a cell phone with video chat capabilities.

123950-Gadget40-Connectix b

the original Quickcam

2000's Edit

It is in the 2000's when the popularization of video chat began with free web services such as Skype and iChat. In august 2003 Skype was created by Ahti Heinla, Prit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn, Janus Friis, and Niklas Zennstrom; original developers of Kazaa a peer-to-peer file sharing service similar to Napster. The name Skype originates from sky peer-to-peer as the service uses a client service to run its network. This allowed Skype to handle large numbers of users without needing large pricey servers as the service would only become more stable as more people joined the network. It was a huge success and by 2010 Skype boasted 663 million users. Skype is primarily a video chat service but, has instant messaging, video conferencing capabilities, file transfer sevice, and could even make traditional landline calls which would be charged to a credit card. Its popularity grew because it was extremely affordable as you could make free calls to anywhere in the world with just an internet connection. Even news programs and tv shows such as Oprah opted to use Skype rather than traditional video conferencing sytems for video chatting and conducting interviews.

With the speed and power now available in modern smartphones videochat is available at the palm of your hand. In Apple's 2010 keynote speech for the iPhone 4 it was announced the videochat service Facetime would be equipped in each device, allowing iPhone 4 users to videochat for free wherever they had an internet connection. Facetime has recently expanded to be equipped in the most recent iteration of the iPad and is standard in all of Apple's mobile devices. This is really the first time since AT&T began attempts at the videophone has video chat technologies actually been able to capture the expectations science fiction had so long ago.

FaceTime Call

iPhone's Facetime application at use


Novak, Matt. "A Brief History of the Videophone That Almost Was." Paleofuture. N.p., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

"AT&T Labs - Innovation - Technology Timeline." AT&T Labs - Technology Timeline - The Computer Videophone. AT&T, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

"Video Conferencing History." Video Conferencing History. Nefsis, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

 Lloyd, Peter. "AV at 40: Video Conferencing." AV Interactive Pro AV News Analysis and Comment from Europes Leading Audio Visual Title AV Magazine. Metropolis Business Publishing, 7 June 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Picture Links's%20fictional%20Telephonoscope%20in%20Punch's%20Almanack%20(1878)%20drawn%20by%20George%20Louis%20Palmella%20Busson%20du%20Maurier.jpg




Video chat is a great communication tool when it works, but like most new technologies it is prone to lagging, working slowly, and is exceptionally frustrating when it doesn’t work properly. If there is lag or sound issues communication is impossible, unlike speaking in person where barriers in communication do not always stop it's effectiveness entirely. Video Chat relies completely on the technology working without failure in any respect, as effective communication is impossible if all aspects are not working in tandem.

Mobile phone users know that video chatting on their phones eats up battery life and data minutes far faster than a text message or a phone call, and often the quality of the image is lacking. This is because the image needs to be compressed as video applications try not to use too much bandwidth.

Group conversations are also exceptionally difficult as when numerous people speak at once their voices become hard to understand and communication is lost. One to many communication is the only kind of group discussion that works with group chat, because as soon as many people try to be heard at once the clarity spirals and you are left missing much of what the other person is saying. This is especially true in business meetings, which often include larger groups of people, each with important things to say. If someone feels in a business meeting that they cannot speak and be heard due to the video chat technology, ideas are likely to be missed and the business meeting will not be as effective.

The demand for video chat technology is increasing faster than the technology can be created, so we are left with lagging applications that use up bandwidth and battery life.





The introduction of video chat has helped to decrease lack of emotion within digital communication.  Scientists claim that 72% of communication is non-verbal, and with other forms of digital media only strictly verbal communication is possible.  Strictly verbal communication causes a lack of emotion, and conclusively a lack of comprehension.  Video chat has improved the power of communication because it allows for the opportunity to see the other party’s face and hear the tone in their voice.

The ability to see the other party’s face and voice brings an intimacy to the conversation that no other digital communication platform can provide.  Video chat diminishes the time and space bias, allowing individuals who live thousands of miles away to feel like they are face-to-face.  Video chat acts as a substitute to interact closely with those that are so far apart.  The ability to hear their voice and see their face adds an extra sense of intimacy that is incomparable to any other communication platform.

Video chat is also being used as an extra aspect of safety on the internet.  Within chat rooms and online dating, recipients are exposed to identity fraud; the individual knows nothing of the other person except what they tell them.  This has escalated to men and women claiming they are the opposite sex, or an age far from their reality.  Online Video Chat dating has been introduced, allowing for two people to get to know each other face-to-face in the comfort of their own homes.  This aspect of communication adds security to the online dating world.

In very unexpected ways video chat is used to communicate with the blind.  In one astounding example a man who went blind at the age of 52 connects a camera to himself, and is constantly attached to an ear piece, and a recipient watches his video stream – which pictures his surroundings – and guides him through his day.  This has allowed the man to even partake in activities like skiing.   A blind man can now live his life as though he has eyes.


Video Chat has evolved to become an online classroom.  Within video conferencing one person holds the ability to talk, show, and experiment with one other person, but they can also do this with hundreds in video conferencing.  The video conferencing, as well as one-on-one video chatting allows for two-way mediation.  The students hold the ability to instant message back, and/or speak back to the individual teaching.  Video chatting allows people to communicate with others they would not necessarily have the opportunity to otherwise.

 Video Chat franchise Skype, monopolizes digital communication in terms of education.  With the use of Skype, musical educators give lessons around the world.  One musical teacher teaches the flute to students in Israel via Skype.  In another example teachers internationally use Skype to allow their students to interact with other students in different countries.  Through Skype’s website, it shows examples of how teachers utilize Skype to enhance the education of their students.  Students in Canada now can hold discussions with students in South Korea; brainstorming culturally different answers to questions for educational assignments. 

Students now hold the opportunity to discuss and hear different cultural viewpoints they would have otherwise never been exposed to.  The process of education is changing due to the technology of video chat. Video chat diminishes geographical barriers; two people who are worlds apart can interact face-to-face.


The greatest aspect of video chatting is its accessibility.  Every individual who has access to the internet has the ability to video chat.  Skype is the most prominent video chat application, and is a free application.  Video chat diminishes distance; a video call to a person down the street is the same price as someone across the world.  The potential cost is accounted only to internet use, the cost of downloading a video chat application is free.  This platform allows for people to communicate over grand distances, but the communication is more intimate and less expensive than phone calls.            

Greater still, the video chat is often a multi-media platform; other digital means of communication are available within video chat.  For Skype, it holds the ability to instant message, conference call, phone call, and even transfer files.  It encompasses all aspects of digital communication.  Above this, the application is available to be downloaded on multiple technologies; it can be downloaded on cell phones, laptops, or tablets.  Each device it can be downloaded on performs it’s regular task but also holds the ability to video chat.

FaceTime, a video chat application exclusive to Apple users, is a built-in system of video chat.  The application is very similar to Skype, but differs in one major way:  the person, as long as their Apple device is on, is reachable.  The Skype application is restricted to only communicating with an individual if the person is connected to Skype.  If the Skype user is signed out of the application, the person cannot be called.


"4500 Miles, 7 Hour Time Difference, and 5 Years Later …." Skype Stay Together. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013

"How Skype Changed One Man's Life -" N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

"Join 73,532 Teachers Using Skype in the Classroom." Projects. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

 "Learn Music Online." Take Music Lessons Online-Learn Guitar, Drums, Piano, Violin, On Skype. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

"SKYECANDY - A PLACE TO SPEED DATE ONLINE." Meet Guys Girls Online for Free & Exchange Contacts. Speed Date Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Additional DetailsEdit

Video chatting has become more and more prevelant in our personal lives. No longer is it constricted to use by the business world. Over the past few years, there have been a few major developments in social video chatting, some focused on a solution for boredom rather than the connecting of people :


Snapchat is an application devloped in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, a dropout from Standford University. It is a self-destructing photo/video application that allows users to send data for up to 10 seconds in length. Although this application is not a direct face-to-face form of video chatting, such as Skype, users have the option to send videos to a singular or multiple recipients, without the threat of a digital afterlife. This component has been the reason for its popularity among people aged 25 and under. With this app, users have a huge agency as it gives people control over the duration of the data, without being a large warehouse for information like Facebook is. Every shot is ephermal.

Some risks that have been associated with Snapchat, is the potential for inappropriate and sexual content being sent from one user to another. Because there is no way to track this information, due to the absence of file storing, a survey was sent out by the administrators inquiring on the uses of Snapchat. The results collected information that would suggest users are mainly sending pictures or videos of funny things, faces etc rather than sexual content. 

When asked about the purpose of Snapchat, founder Spiegel says, "It is an application that can free yourself from an amorphous collection of who you've been forever."        Perhaps it is a bigger movement against the permanence of many social media and digital sites today, or a resistance to gentle totalitarianism of endless sharing.




These two sites are free sites that pair random people form around the world in webcam-based chats. Both have gained popularity over the years; Chatroulette launching in 2007 and Omegle video conferencing launching in 2009.

In the case of the two sites, the anonymity of the users can be both a benefit and a risk of using the site. While many times users can connect to other friendly users with similar interests, for a conversation. The risk with these sites is the potential for being paired with a user who abuses the anonymity to either display inappropriate sexual content and nudity or for negativity, racism or bullying.

At the same time, users can take advantage of the anonymity to put their best self forward, in a conversation with someone across the globe they will likely never meet, for the sake of good conversation and relief of boredom.

Portable North Pole (Apple Application)


A few years ago, Apple launched the Portable North Pole application as a way to commercialize connecting with friends and family. It allows people to send their loved ones personlized messages from Santa and his elves with personal photos and customized details. Customers pay a fee depending on the length of the video they want to send. Similar in concept to Snapchat, ths application is not a direct face-to-face interaction of sender to recipient. It is a pre-programmed message that is customized on a purschase basis. Buyers can "get on Santa's good list" by paying more for a video that features a lenghty message and a sneak peak into Santa's workshop.

An obvious neo-liberalist form of video chatting, Portable North Pole encourages people to buy in to the market to solve their problems, whether that be staying in touch with friends and family or visiting friends and family. 


U-Stream is a concept that was developed because of concerned with ability, or rather, inablitiy, of soldiers deployed in Iraq to communicate with their loved ones. U-stream launched in 2007 as a commercial video broadcasting hub that offered basic, free service. Revenue was gained from advertising. It is a "socially fueled video platform for broadcasters of any size to easily reach an infinite audience and share experiences in real time."

Since then, this one-to-many concept video chat has been used for many social purposes. Artists have used U-Stream to broadcast performances and interviews, and it has since been popularized by Redditers. One can find U-streams of NASA rocket launches, trial videos from various cases such as the Steubenville case and most recently, The Day of The Doctor on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. 

Using a cloud 

of technologies, U-Stream's goal is to provide users with redundancy, resiliancy, and reliability to broadcast quality, live, video streams.

Xbox One

Xbox's newest console, Xbox One is equipped with Skype (owned by Microsoft). Gamers are now able to use video chat with up to four participants, connecting with people in a leisurely environment.The Skype is only an application, not a part of the Kinect software with video chat integration, plus streaming capabilities. It eliminates the need for headsets, and allows the users to share the experience with other users on a more personal, and social level.



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Qin Lv, "Detecting Misbehavior in Online Video Chat Services," Internet Computing, IEEE , vol.17, no.3 (2013): pp.76,79.



"Apple (Canada) - IOS 7 - FaceTime." Apple (Canada) - IOS 7 - FaceTime. N.p., 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Connolly, P J. "Facing Video Chat Reality." Trades Journal 44th ser. 27.16 (2010): n. pag.

"How Skype Changed One Man's Life -" N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Jana, Shraboni, et al. "Mobile Video Chat: Issues and Challenges." IEEE Communications Magazine 51.6 (2013)Print.

 "Join 73,532 Teachers Using Skype in the Classroom." Projects. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

"Learn Music Online." Take Music Lessons Online-Learn Guitar, Drums, Piano, Violin, On Skype. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Muchmore, Michael. "Skype 4.0." Editorial. PC 14 Feb. 2009: n. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

"Skype Home Page." Skype. N.p., 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

"SKYECANDY - A PLACE TO SPEED DATE ONLINE." Meet Guys Girls Online for Free & Exchange Contacts. Speed Date Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

York, Matthew. "Webcams." Videomaker. N.p., June 2009. Web.

"4500 Miles, 7 Hour Time Difference, and 5 Years Later …." Skype Stay Together. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

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