conversation, but the combination of high-speed Internet, webcams, and smartphones makes modern video chatting a close substitute.

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If you both have the same kind of smartphone, a built-in app might be all you need.

But if one of you is on a computer and the other is on a video-game console, you'll probably need to find something a bit more robust.

You know a technology has caught on when it becomes a verb.

Skype is the de facto way to connect when you're unsure of the equipment of the people to whom you're connecting.

The powerful videoconferencing application runs on just about anything with an Internet connection, including i OS and Android devices, Macs and PCs, and even some televisions.

That versatility, plus integration with Facebook and Outlook (Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011), means a growing base of users and ways to access the service.

To prevent platforms from coming between friends and family, Skype allows calls between various kinds of devices.

Given the amount of money AT&T made for so long on long-distance calling, it's surprising how many modern companies are lining up to offer video calls to anywhere in the world for free; by sending calls over the Internet, these services circumvent phone companies altogether.

Yet here we are, with dozens of ways to send our voices and faces over the Web.

In fact, it's the very volume of incompatible options that makes the process far more confusing than it needs to be.

The videoconferencing service you end up using will depend on the device you connect with and the devices owned by those whom you wish to contact.