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Skype Group Video Calls Are Free Once More

One of Skype's most useful paid features is the ability to do group video calls — but with free alternatives like Google Hangouts, shelling out didn't always make sense. That's not a problem any more: Microsoft announced Monday that group video calling is now free for everyone.

You can connect with up to nine other people for calls, and screen-sharing is also included — great for sharing presentations with multi-site teams or showing vacation pictures to scattered family members.

Group video calls were actually free in early versions of the app, but became a paid feature in early 2011, just before the company was purchased by Microsoft for more than $8 billion.

Now they're free again, though only on desktop and Xbox One for now (no mobile). If you want to try it out, just select one of your Skype contacts and hit the plus sign under their name to add people to the conversation, then fire up the video call with the usual button.

Microsoft took down the "premium" version of Skype temporarily "to give it a refresh," since group video and screen-sharing were a major part of the draw. You can still purchase monthly subscriptions, however, if you make a lot of international calls.

Skype is free to download and on just about every platform out there.