Microsoft has rushed out a new Skype feature that lets you setup an online meeting or group call with a single shareable link. Of course there a good things about this option and some very bad things. As usual, the setup is more complicated than Microsoft makes out.
This new system lets you setup a meeting with others using a single web link. People don’t need to install Skype because they can use a web browser. They don’t even need a login because ‘guest’ access is possible.
That said, Microsoft will do it’s best to encourage people to login with a Microsoft account and install Skype.
How new is this feature? It doesn’t have a name yet! ‘Free Conference Call’, ‘Easy video meetings’ etc. There’s been no time for the marketing people to have long, liquid (virtual) lunch and come up with a name, let alone a proper marketing plan. Perhaps that’s a first for Microsoft?
How Skype meetings work
On the right click on ‘Create a free meeting’. After a pause you’ll see a unique link for an online call/meeting.
Copy link – click on the little ‘copy’ icon at right of the link to put it into the clipboard.
From there, paste it into an email, WhatsApp/Signal or other instant message.
Or use the Share Invite menu to copy the link or create an Outlook / Gmail invite email.
That simple link is a trap. Microsoft’s eagerness to grab some attention from Zoom means they’ve fallen into the same privacy troubles that its rival are trying to get out of!
What participants see and do?
What do the people you invite into a Skype meeting see and do to join in?
Click on the meeting link, it’ll open in their default web browser.
Supported Browser with Skype for Web
Most people won’t have to worry about compatibility. Any modern browser and operating system is supported. Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer v10 (naturally). Recent versions of Chrome or Firefox for Windows or Mac. Safari 6 or later on Mac.
What each person sees depends on their current setup. This is what we saw on our test machines.
Open Skype – click that to start Skype software on your computer.
Or choose a Microsoft account to login using Skype for Web.
Download Skype – will install the full Skype software which is NOT necessary.
Already have Skype – if Skype software is already on your computer, click ‘Launch it now’ to start it.
According to Microsoft, it should work like this .
Multiple clicks to start a Skype meeting
It’s not a ‘one click’ process to start a Skype meeting call.
The meeting host sees this in Skype for web. This page does NOT mean the online call has started!
Copy Link – lets you share the link some more.
Add people – sends the link to Skype contacts.
Start Call – click that link but even then the call hasn’t really started. You’re taken to this page.
Start call (again)– click on the second ‘Start call’ button to finally commence the online meeting.
If you’ve been following the troubles with Zoom and intruders getting into calls, then you’ll have seen the big gaping security hole in Skype’s free conference calls.
There’s no password, no ‘waiting room’ or other options that Zoom has for protecting a call from unwanted guests. If the Skype meeting link gets to other people, they can join the call just as easily as anyone else.
It’s important that you start each call with a new Skype meeting link that’s unique and different from previous links.
Other privacy concerns apply to any Skype meeting. File transfers are possible with no way to restrict them (unlike Zoom). The meeting and chat can be recorded, make sure the recording is kept private. Skype calls are NOT secure with known security risks especially with chats, subtitles and translation.
Skype free meetings seems to have been rushed out by Microsoft in response to the popularity of Zoom. That’s understandable and it’s good to have the alternative calling option.
However, Microsoft should have done a better job explaining the risks and workarounds to customers. Even if more security features could not be added in time, a page explaining protection options would help … Help Skype customers and help Microsoft avoid a public backlash.
You may have better luck ….
We’ve not been able to get one of these new Skype ‘free conference calls’ to work. No matter what combination of links, browsers, software and computers, they all get stuck on ‘Joining conversation …’ .
It seems Skype is having some teething troubles with this rushed release. Give it a try, maybe you’ll have better luck.