Mar 23, 2019 | Updated: 12:48 PM EDT

Skype can now hold up to 50 participants in a group chat

Mar 15, 2019 03:48 PM EDT

Skype conversation

Microsoft is testing a key change to its Skype video conferencing software that could make it more useful. The latest beta version of Skype is now introducing an ability to enter a video call with up to 50 people, a change from the current standard release which has a maximum limit of 25 participants.

While this may not be something that the average home user will be particularly interested in, it's something that will be welcomed by business users as it means they will be able to hold larger remote meetings for free.

Likely aimed at competing with the service Zoom, this new ability could prove useful for companies and other large businesses already using Microsoft's other Office 365 products. For a less annoying experience, once a call is started in a large group of up to 50 people, notifications will be sent out instead of ringing each individual individually. This means that the workflow of Skype users who are not able to join a large call won't be impacted. The latest Skype preview version also enables the audio and video buttons on these large scale calls for additional privacy, as well as a notification feature for smaller groups.

The change rolled out a couple of days ago, so if you haven't yet updated to the latest version of the Skype beta, now is the time to do so. For now, larger group video chats are only available for beta testers, but it is something that is likely to roll out on a large scale soon.

Announcing the increase in the number of chat participants in the Skype forums, Microsoft said:

"We are excited to announce two big changes to group calling in Skype. Before now, Skype only supported calls in groups up to 25 participants -- but today we are supporting calls in groups of up to 50! When you start a call in these large groups, it will send a notification instead of ringing all the members, to not interrupt those who can't join. With this update you will also see that the audio and video buttons are now enabled in these larger groups."

Skype has evolved quite a bit since it was first introduced in 2003, and it even recently received a feature which allows users to blur out the background on calls. Now integrated with Windows 10, the service is growing in popularity, and Microsoft continues to work on the overall experience after it acquired Skype in 2011.

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