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Looking for the best video conferencing service? Here’s a guide

We’ve got you covered for work as well as casual meetings

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The Coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone indoors and companies are scrambling to adopt the work-from-home model. While larger companies deal directly with service providers under the B2B setup, individuals or smaller teams are having a hard time picking the right video conferencing service or app.

Before we get started, you need to ask yourself about your requirements. How big is your team? How well equipped is your team? Most importantly, how do you intend to use the service?

1. Zoom

Zoom is among the most popular video conferencing platforms for businesses. It is feature-rich, with various plans based on size and needs. Prices range from free for basic personal meetings to US$ 19.99/month/host for large enterprises with a minimum of 100 hosts. It’s desktop as well as mobile apps are straightforward and require bare-minimum hardware to run.

However, the service has risen to fame too soon amid the pandemic and couldn’t keep up with stringent safety as well as privacy norms. If your business deals with sensitive information that needs guaranteed protection, we’d suggest staying away from this service for now. But, it isn’t that unsafe to use and is perfect for general domestic as well as business needs.

2. Skype / Microsoft Teams

The name is synonymous with video conferencing and pioneered the industry more a decade ago. Now owned by Microsoft, it’s a robust platform that’s well integrated with other Microsoft services like Outlook and even Office. If your workflow is based on the Microsoft ecosystem, this should be your go-to option. However, Skype is limited inherently and recommended for individual or casual meetings with friends and family.

For work or businesses, Microsoft Teams is a collaborating tool like Slack that intends to replace emails and make workplace connectivity even more streamlined. You can add up to 100 participants in one call and that’ll be soon upgraded to 250 in the coming weeks. Both the services have free as well as paid plans depending on the requirement.

3. Google Hangouts / Google Meet

Just like Microsoft’s offering, Google Hangouts has been around for a long time and the go-to option for many. It was designed to offer group video calling, but for domestic or casual use. It’s also deeply integrated into Google’s ecosystem of services and often competes against the companies another offering — Google Duo.

For work or business-related usage, Google was quick to launch Google Meet. In simpler terms, it’s an upgraded version of Google Hangouts and can accommodate up to 100 users at once and has both, paid as well as free plans. However, it’s more generous than Zoom and gives free users a 60-minute usage window than just 40.

4. Facebook Messenger Rooms:

While every tech giant is going after the video-conferencing trend, Facebook felt left out as well and debuted a feature called Messenger Rooms. It allows up to 50 people to take part in a video chat, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts. In line with Facebook’s history with Instagram, it lets you add augmented reality (AR) filters like bunny ears and more.

We’d suggest using this app for casual calls with your friends and acquaintances or hosting informal “rooms” with your colleagues or Meetup events. Facebook’s history with privacy hasn’t been spick-and-span and we don’t encourage enterprises to use this service.

5. WhatsApp / FaceTime:

WhatsApp is the most popular instant messaging app and is known for its simplicity yet feature-rich offerings. When compared to the rest of the services, this one lets you add only eight users in a group video call. And, that’s the intended purpose. The app is super casual and best for waking up that one friend who has been sleeping too much during the lockdown.

The same goes for FaceTime, Apple’s in-house messaging, and video calling service. If you’re a micro-team, these solutions would very well work for you. But as you grow, these tools are insufficient to get work done and are standalone apps that offer nothing more than just the basics.

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TikTok, Reels clone YouTube Shorts launches in the US

Everyone wants a piece of the pie

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shorts

YouTube unveiled its short-video-making tool called Shorts last year, but it was in beta and limited to India. Shorts is now available to all creators in the US after testing them with select creators.

The initial release was quite hasty as it was supposed to bridge the vacuum left by TikTok’s ban in India. However, Instagram was much faster and well prepared to take on the challenge, dominating the turf over many local apps like Chingari, Roposo, and MX TakaTak.

YouTube is also adding a dedicated space in the bottom tab by replacing the explore button. In India, YouTube Shorts has a dedicated space on the top bar of the app. YouTube also displays Shorts in the home feed of the app after around 2-3 videos.

The goal is to incorporate a short video format in the existing app. While watching a “short”, users can tap on the music option to hear the full song via YouTube. Soon, the feature also will work the other way: From a YouTube music video, you will be able to click a “create” button right from the video to make your own Short.

Shorts will expand

The video platform’s music team has signed licensing agreements to use snippets of millions of songs from over 250 labels and publishers. It plans to expand Shorts to more markets later this year but it hasn’t specified which ones.

Ahead of the US launch, a bunch of new features has been added as well. There’s now an option to record 60-second clips in addition to the 15-second option. But users will not be able to add music from the YouTube library to 60-second Shorts. There are also new filters and effects in the YouTube Shorts camera.

In its most recent earnings report, YouTube confirmed that Shorts were generating 6.5 billion daily views, a substantial uptick over the 3.5 billion daily views that the feature was generating in late January.

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After years of settling, Twitter is finally waking up to new features

There’s so many of them in 2021

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Twitter has been around for a long time, and it has changed a lot since its debut. The micro-blogging platform was infamous for its 140 character limit, an intentional limitation that ensured everything on the site is short, crisp, and to the point. It’s no surprise that Twitter became the go-to website for news, independent alerts, and much more within no time.

Although, if you’ve been a Twitter user for a decade, you’ll know that the platform hasn’t changed much in all these years. Twitter did increase the length limit to 280 characters in 2017, but it had little change in the overall behavior of users. Twitter was always an easy-to-use “blog,” and it was happy being in its little inconquerable bubble.

Things are changing fast this year as Twitter aggressively adds new features and intends to open a subscription model soon. Obviously, there won’t be any change in the way we tweet or interact, but the number of features we have will surely increase. The platform is still silent about the most asked feature — the edit button on tweets. But rest assured, the classic Twitter experience isn’t going away anytime soon.


In fact, it’s going to get a lot more interesting as the platform now supports Spaces, a feature that allows users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time audio conversations with others. Instead of typing, why not just talk candidly to all your followers?

Twitter began working on the audio-chat feature in November 2020, and it was available for beta and alpha users a few months ago. It’s now ready for public use, and any user with more than 600 followers can create a room and start talking. Audio-only features are the trend, and every company, including Facebook and Spotify, is doubling down on it.

Twitter has also confirmed that it is working on an upcoming feature called “Ticket Spaces.” This feature will allow users to create Spaces that require others to purchase a ticket to join. The platform has never been so keen on monetization, but the shift in strategy is clearly visible. Hosts will earn the majority of revenue from ticket sales, while Twitter will pocket a small fee.


In January 2021, Twitter discreetly acquired Revue, a Dutch startup that allows users to publish and monetize email newsletters. Just like SubStack, Revue lets you create your own newsletter and monetize it. However, what’s special here is, the newsletter is now integrated within Twitter. So, it makes it easier to persuade your existing followers to subscribe, helping you directly monetize your reach on Twitter.

The feature is already available on Twitter’s web app. Many say that a newsletter doesn’t work in Twitter’s favor, but the company tends to disagree.

“Many established writers and publishers have built their brand on Twitter, amassing an audience that’s hungry for the next article or perspective they Tweet. Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers while also helping readers better discover writers and their content. We’re imagining many ways to do this, from allowing people to sign up for newsletters from their favorite follows on Twitter to new settings for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. It will all work seamlessly,” said Kayvon, Product Lead at Twitter.


New functionality isn’t the only thing that’s keeping the engineers busy. The platform has always attracted controversy due to moderation, troll attacks, and indecent behavior. Thousands of accounts are removed every week to ensure community guidelines are followed to maintain a safe space for everyone.

In 2020, the company began testing a new safety mechanism that prompts users to reconsider before they reply to a tweet using “harmful” language.

If a user types out a reply with any of the language that the company has deemed harmful, they’ll see a warning message asking, “Want to review this before tweeting? We’re asking people to review replies with potentially harmful or offensive language.”

While this may not seem like much, previous reports have shown that these minor design-based hurdles help curb negativity. Based on trials, Twitter said that 34 percent of people revised their initial reply after seeing the prompt or chose not to send the reply at all.


Lastly, Twitter has changed the way its algorithm crops a picture to show it on the timeline. Now, when users tweet a photo uploaded with their iOS or Android device, it will appear in the timeline in its entirety. There’ll be no cropping, so you won’t be forced to open the picture and see all the details.

Earlier, the algorithm would determine the most sensible part of the picture, crop it, and show a preview on the feed. This prompted many to share memes that could be completely seen only when the picture is opened. Else, it could look context-free and random. While most users are cheering the minor change, many feel that the surprise element behind seeing a photo is now gone. Fair to say, it’s going to be impossible to please everyone!

Though, we’d really appreciate it if Twitter could give us an edit button as well.

Read Also: Twitter acquires ad-removing news app Scroll

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Apple Music could soon support HiFi audio streaming

Launch alongside the AirPods 3?

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Apple One

Apple is primarily a hardware company, and a majority of its revenue comes from iPhones. However, it has actively diversified and monetized services like Apple Music. Taking a step forward, the company could soon unveil HiFi music playback on the streaming service, directly going up against niche players like Tidal.

According to Hits Daily Double, Apple Music will soon get a new tier that’ll provide higher-quality output. Interestingly, it’ll be available for just US$ 9.99, far affordable than the competition. However, this is still a rumor and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Many other streaming companies offer HiFi music streaming, and recently, Spotify also announced its plans to provide better streaming quality. It’s not clear which markets will be among the first to get HiFi playback.

Apple Music streaming quality currently tops out at 256kbps AAC, and while that’s very crisp and clear, it’s still compressed. On the other hand, a studio-quality CD has an audio output equivalent of 9,216kbps. The difference in quality isn’t easily differentiable via an ordinary earphone and headphone, though. Audiophiles use high-end equipment that isn’t required if you’re just an average Joe wanting to listen to Taylor Swift.

The source also speculates that Apple will unveil the AirPods 3 alongside the HiFi announcement. Although, trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had gauged a launch in Q3 of 2021.

It’s also worth noting that Apple Music getting Hi-Res audio playback is practically useless because the iPhone doesn’t have a DAC (digital to analog converter), which plays a critical role in sending accurate signals to the audio device.

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