Skype is celebrating a decade of existence Thursday: Maybe it's about time to test your loyalty to the service.
When Skype launched on Aug. 29, 2003, the world was a different place and the Internet was barely ready for a video chatting service.
But as Web cameras became more common and as Internet speeds improved, more and more users flocked to Skype.
The service offered users a cool alternative to long-distance calling. You could chat with someone in another country for free and you could even see them on video.
But in 2013, Skype is no longer the coolest, simplest or cheapest service to use, and that's why you should explore different options. I personally like Google Hangouts for a number of reasons.
For starters, Google Hangouts doesn't require you to install a software program on your computer.
With Skype, you have to install a program and then launch it every time you want to make a call. That's fine if you're using your own computer, but if you're using someone else's machine, there's a good chance you'll have to install Skype.
Google Hangouts, on the other hand, simply requires that you install a Web browser plugin, which is a much simpler and quicker process. Once that's done, you can start making calls by going to Gmail or Google+ -- you don't have launch a program.
Hangouts also makes it easy to chat with more than one person. On the Google video chat service, you can have a call with up to 10 people. Skype offers the same, but the feature works only if one of the callers pays for Skype Premium, a service that starts at $4.99 per month.
But aside from the simplicity and savings, Google Hangouts is also worth a try because the video quality and reliability is just as good as Skype. And it's fun to use.
With Google Hangouts, users can watch YouTube videos together or they can turn on special video effects that include masks and other funny objects. On Skype, those features aren't included.
I'm not saying you should ditch Skype altogether. I'm just saying that it's time to broaden your horizons.