6 of the best online video chat systems

Tokbox is the easiest video chat site we have found, making it easy for mobile users to communicate with co-workers. We had very few problems using the service, both on a Mac and a PC, and the video feed looked smooth and stutter-free during several test calls over both a home network and the internet.

3. Palbee
Palbee is quite a bit different from the other online chat clients available. For starters, it is essentially a meeting place with a whiteboard, text chat, document sharing, and rudimentary drawing tools that allow business associates to share ideas online. It makes it more like Twiddla (see overleaf) than Windows Live Messenger.

Yet a focus point for Palbee is that it allows you to share your video feed during a meeting, so it's useful as a video chat tool. And it runs entirely on the web using Adobe Flash, so there is no software to install or configure (unless of course your PC or Mac does not have Flash installed yet, but most have it pre-installed).

Meetings use a default timer countdown of one hour, but you can change this or add more time to the meeting anytime you want. It locks the meeting participants into a more obvious online meeting paradigm without using the more freeform structure of a Tokbox or Imo.im chat.

Palbee is a brand new portal and some of the bugs have not been worked out quite yet. During testing, the site crashed a few times and showed several error messages. And the video streaming – which is a central part of the meeting but obviously not the only feature – ran a bit choppy at times, especially if we started running any other software or visited other media-intensive sites, such as YouTube.

We also noticed that Palbee does not work with a Mac – it won't recognise the built-in webcam.

4. SightSpeed Light
SightSpeed is a well-known chat client that normally runs as a program in Windows. This light version runs directly within MySpace (there is also a version for Facebook, but it didn't work properly at press time).

Once you load the application – a simple matter of searching for it, and clicking an 'add application' button – you can chat between other MySpace users with just a few clicks. There are even options for holding a 'multipoint' talk where multiple people use the SightSpeed Light client to conference together.

Once you actually start a chat, the 'light' moniker in SightSpeed Light starts to make sense – there are no options for voicemail, text chat, or really anything except a basic video window where you can talk to other MySpace users. Still, the benefit of keeping the conversation online where you can keep in contact with friends and business associates outweighs the paltry feature set, even when you know you can go and download the full SightSpeed client for Windows and get a lot more control over the window size and other settings.

You may decide to forgo a video chat and create an online collaboration session instead. It's like holding a whiteboard session, without the exorbitant web conferencing fees and the hassle of downloading a client.

Another benefit is you don't have to think about how you look and you don't need a webcam on your laptop to collaborate online without a video feed.

5. Vyew
(free for sign-up)
One of the latest and best Web 2.0 services for collaboration – currently free to use – is called Vyew. Part desktop-sharing agent (you can share whatever is on your desktop), part whiteboard tool (where you can draw diagrams and compare notes), and part instant messaging chat client, Vyew (pronounced 'view') has one main strength: it's fast.