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What video conferencing tools can I use to celebrate the holidays remotely with my relatives?

The holidays are usually a time for gathering and celebrating with your loved ones-- and this year, when you talk with your friends and family about plans, it is okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard, but the safest thing to do both for your health and the health of your loved ones is to stay put and avoid travelling during this holiday season and instead, spend time with those in your own household. Hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones down the line.

However, there are still ways to connect with your loved ones virtually, including several video-conferencing tools:

  • Zoom is popular and simple to use. Zoom is waiving that 40-minute video call limit for free accounts during the holidays.
  • Skype allows up to 50 users to talk for hours, but quality goes down the more people who join in. Skype also enables closed captions for individuals who are deaf/hard-of-hearing.
  • Google Hangouts is simple to use, but only allows 10 participants on a video call. Additionally, the person hosting the call must have a Gmail account (but those who are joining do not).
  • FaceTime offers high-quality video calls and supports up to 32 people, but is only available for Apple device users.
  • Facebook Messenger allows you to start a video call with an existing group chat with up to 50 friends at a time, and is available on Apple, Android, and on desktop computers. However, all participants must have a Facebook account. WhatsApp by Facebook is also available for chat, audio and video calls.
  • HouseParty is a fun video chat app with optional games, but only accommodates eight users at a time.
  • Watch party apps allow users to sync up their video streaming services so that they can watch together remotely in real time. There are many of these apps, including ones offered by streaming platforms themselves, but Scener (which supports Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, hulu, Prime Video, Youtube, Funimation, and more) is unique in that it has a video and text chat function built-in to the app as well.
This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

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