Like Facebook's Skype Connection, Google+ Hangouts offers video chatting on computers and mobile devices with a little help through your friendly neighborhood social network. Unlike Skype for Facebook, though, the picture's a lot clearer, it allows for visual effects such as mustaches and pirate hats and lets up to 10 devices at a time link in for free.
Also, unlike FaceTime, iPhone, iPad and Android users can all get in on the fun as long as they're willing to register for a Google+ account and take on a video plug-in. Google+ hasn't been the high-traffic equivalent of Facebook since its launch, but the 10-party improvement Google made to Hangouts this year was one of the best tech moves of the year. It may also be the best present Google has given families this holiday season.
Don't worry, we're not telling grandma to jump on the holiday version of Chatroulette.
Airtime may have similar random-video roots and still allows users to go hunting for video chatters with shared interests, but it's also become a fairly easy way to chat since launching in June. Founded by the same guys who brought you Napster, Airtime is accessed through your Facebook account and lets users make video calls, leave video messages for one another or add YouTube videos to their libraries. Does your slack-jawed cousin still crack up whenever he sees the sledding scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation? Go ahead and post it.
If you're up for using it to meet people after your aunt and uncle in Florida log off, Airtime will award you badges and points based on your usage. Just remember that it's basically the equivalent of going to the club on Christmas night. If there's a Christmas tree in your house, a ham on your family's table and at least one relative or more a few time zones away staying up just to wish you a happy holiday, don't take your nasty self to the club afterward. Zoom.us
Maybe you have a stuffy relative who thinks video conferencing should be kept to the conference room. Maybe you are that relative and are most comfortable when the video screen's big enough to see someone in the back of the other room pick their nose, the table's long enough that it looks like it could extend through the screen and the conferencing hardware is sensitive enough to pick up that snide remark the slacker from accounting just mumbled under his breath. Boy, do we have a stuffy, buttoned-up service for you.