Although a camera isn't required to use several of the features of Skype, you do need one if you want to make use of the video calling features. Without a camera, voice calls and instant messaging are still possible. Some Skype users who don't need to use video facilities choose to use a headset instead.
Skype is a communications application available free across a number of operating system platforms including Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X. Skype's features allow you to have text-based instant messaging conversations with your contacts, send files to contacts over the Internet and to have free voice and video calls with other Skype users. By purchasing Skype credit, you can also make calls to landline telephones outside of the Skype network at fixed prices.
If you have a webcam on your computer, you can make a video call to another Skype user on your contacts list. The recipient of your call will be able to see the images from your webcam instantly. Video calls between Skype users are completely free and use the bandwidth of your Internet connection. Skype also offers video conferencing facilities, allowing you to conduct video-based meetings with several simultaneous participants.
A wide range of cameras is compatible with Skype, including those integrated with modern laptops, and standalone webcams that connect via a computer’s USB ports. Some webcams include integrated microphones, so you can use these for simple voice calls, with the video functionality switched on as an option when desired.
If you use Skype only for instant messaging and voice calls, you can use these facilities without a camera. If you decide to make use of the video features, for example to keep in touch with relatives in other countries at no cost, you can purchase a camera at a later date. Once you have installed your new camera, you can configure the program to use it via the Skype settings.