Skype's new beta finally launched this week, with the option to host group video chats for up to five of your Skype contacts being the most interesting new feature of the service.

All of your contacts that you wish to bring into your group video chats must also have the Skype 5.0 beta installed on a Windows PC for it to work. Mac users are promised a similar service later in 2010.

Bringing families together

"With the latest version, you'll be able to bring the whole family together for a chat, for lunch, or even for a birthday," notes a post on the Skype blog.

"You'll be able to spend quality time with your best friends, planning a trip, or even hosting a book club. And you'll be able to meet with colleagues from across the world without leaving your desk.

"Once you're all set up, it's easy to start a group call – just use the Add button to invite people into the conversation, and click the Video Call button.

"Group video calling is just one in a set of new premium features you'll see us roll out during 2010. We haven't set prices for these premium features yet, but rest assured that we're still absolutely committed to bringing you free voice and two-way video calling."

Group chatting test

There are already competing VoIP services such as VoxOx and ooVoo that offer group video chats as options, but Skype is by far the most popular internet telephony company to launch such a service to date.

You can check out the Skype 5.0 beta for Windows and a preview of the brand new version of Skype over at the Skype website.

And if you want to get involved in group video chats you can download the new version of Skype now and encourage all your Skype contacts to do the same.