Can You Video Chat With Someone That Has a Camera If You Don't?

By Elizabeth Mott

Even without a webcam, you can chat with friends who use video-enabled hardware.
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On April 20, 1964, Bell Telephone presented the first coast-to-coast video call between installations at the World's Fair in New York City and the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif. The commercial service based on this high-visibility debut cost $16 for a three-minute video chat and failed within four years. You can participate in one of the 21st century's abundant video-chat alternatives even without a camera-enabled communications device, and spend far less, if anything, for the call.

Facebook Video Calling

When you want to share a video chat with a Facebook friend, you can use Facebook's built-in video calling features to communicate, regardless of whether your friend uses a Mac or a Windows PC. Video calling requires that both of you make yourselves available for chatting. After you complete a browser-specific one-time setup procedure, you can visit your friend's Timeline and click on the "Call" link at the top of the screen. This process works even if only one of you uses a webcam.

Google Chat

When you use Google Docs to provide Web-based access to office software, you also gain an optional online collaboration tool in the form of Google Chat, invoked when you install the Google Chat gadget. The basic form of this service involves typing replies back and forth in instant-messaging fashion, but you can elevate your exchange to voice or video with the addition of plug-in software. After you log in to Gmail, you can check your chat list for icons that indicate which of your colleagues or friends have installed video- or audio-chat support. Google Chat supports multiple participants in a single chat session and can involve a mixture of audio-only and A/V participants. One-on-one, you can connect for a one-way video chat with a webcam-equipped friend. Google offers other chat opportunities through its Google+ Hangouts.

Skype Conversations

Now owned by Microsoft, Skype enables you to enjoy video chats with friends and family around the world through a combination of free and paid services. If Skype supports your computer, tablet or smartphone, you can accept a call with video and audio enabled or opt for audio only, accommodating setups without video hardware. After you install the Skype application, you can participate in one-on-one conversations but may be limited to audio only when you join group chats, depending on the device you use and the version of the Skype software you install. You also can place audio-only calls.

Other Considerations

When you buy a current computer -- desktop or portable -- or a smartphone or tablet device, it typically comes equipped with a built-in webcam and microphone. Some HD TV sets also incorporate video cameras and mics. You can add a third-party manufacturer's external webcam to your computer to supplement a hardware configuration that lacks one. Whether you choose to omit the video support because you prefer the relative privacy of audio-only chats or because your computer, OS and online bandwidth can't support high video quality, you still can make use of chat features to communicate with webcam-using friends.