Video phone calling has been around, at least in concept, if not in practice, for decades.
In 1964, U.S. telephone giant, AT&T, premiered its “Picturephone.” But neither that first device or its later iterations caught on.
Fast-forward to the present, and thanks to services like Skype, Apple’s FaceTime for both Mac computers and Apple mobile devices, and Google Hangouts, if you have a computer, smartphone, or tablet, you can carry on face-to-face conversations over the Internet with anyone else who has a similar device and Internet access.
But those visual conversations were not always so easy to kick off. FaceTime only works on Apple devices. Skype and Google Hangouts require an account with username and password.
Now Mozilla has added “Hello,” a very easy to use video calling feature, to its Firefox Web browser (Version 34 or later).
Here’s how it works.
Making and Receiving “Hello” Calls
To “start a conversation” (i.e., initiate a call), you’ll need to have Firefox (Version 34 or later) installed on your computer.
Just click on the “Hello” icon (which should be on the Firefox browser tool bar), then from the pop-up video window, send a link to the “conversation” to the person you want to contact by either hitting “Email link” (to use your default e-mail program) or “Copy Link” to copy and paste it into another e-mail program.
Tip: Fill in the “Name this conversation” box (e.g., “Hello Call to Mom”) to save the link and the e-mail address of the person you’ll be speaking to and you’ll be able to quickly “hook up” with them in future video calls.
To “join a conversation” (i.e., receive a call), you’ll need to have either Firefox, or the Google Chrome or Opera Web browsers, installed on your computer. Click on the link to the conversation in the e-mail you received, and the “Hello” video window will open in your browser, and then click on the “Join Conversation” button.
When I tested “Hello” I found it took a few tries before e-mailing my wife a link to a conversation was successful.
This video shows “Hello” in action.
The video quality during the conversation was fairly grainy in both the full-screen on “small screen” views on both my Mac desktop and my wife’s MacBookPro laptop.
If you initiated the call, tap on the red arrow icon in the top-right of the screen to end it. If you received the call, click on “Leave.”
Having a “Bad Hair Day”? No problem. Just click on the video camera icon to turn off your computer’s camera and make/receive the call as voice-only.
Need to make a private comment (e.g., “Why is Dick being such a jerk today?”) to someone else in the room with you during the call? Just click on the microphone icon to turn it off.
“Hello” only permits one-on-one “conversations,” so you can’t use it to conduct a video “conference call” with multiple people.
And you can’t “share” your computer screen.
“Hello” on Computers and Mobile Devices
Firefox “Hello” will work on Apple Mac computers and PCs running Windows if you use Firefox to initiate a call, or Firefox, Chrome, or Opera Web browsers to receive it.
But “Hello” can’t be used with Safari on a Mac, or on any Apple mobile device (even if you have the Chrome or Opera browser apps installed).
“Hello” may work with future releases of Internet Explorer on Windows PCs and the Windows Phone. It is unclear whether it will work with an Android mobile device (and I don’t own one, so I can’t run a test).
Should You Say Hello to “Hello”?
If Skype works for you use it. Likewise with Google Hangouts. If you need multi-party video calling, try one of those services.
If you own a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, and want to make video calls to those who own such devices, stick with FaceTime.
For all other one-on-one video or audio Internet calling, try out “Hello” if it will run on your computer.