AV by AIM, the Web-based video chat service that TechCrunch wrote about when it was supposed to be an AOL secret, is now public. And it’s worth checking out. The service’s defining feature is how exceptionally easy it is to get going–you don’t need an account, and you don’t need any information about or from the people–there can be up to four of you–who you want to chat with. All you do is send them a bit.ly-like short URL that AV provides when you initiate a chat. They click on it, and you’re all in the same room.
(The biggest complication that I and one of my fellow chatters had was that AV requires a more recent version of Flash than the one we had.)
How’s the quality? Well, when I checked it out with two pals, we agreed that it’s “good enough.” Picture quality was not bad at all, but it was occasionally a bit out of sync with the audio. (I was on crummy hotel Wi-Fi, which probably didn’t help.) When we tried chatting using Apple’s iChat, the IM client built into OS X, we found that the video didn’t look as nice, but was better synchronized with the audio.
Since AV uses Flash, we wondered if that meant it would work on Android devices that support Flash. It doesn’t–or at least didn’t work on Acer’s Iconia Tab when one of my friends tried.
AV is free and doesn’t carry ads, and for now, at least, it really doesn’t have very much to do with AIM. You can send the short URL via AIM, and the whole thing probably works best if you’re IM buddies with whoever you want to chat with in the first place, since you need an alternative means of communication to arrange the AV session. It’s not going to replace more ambitious approaches to video communications, but it is fun.