4 Skype Alternatives That You Can Use For Free

SkypeIf you rely heavily on Skype for your work or to keep in touch with your friends, I’m sure you’re anxious after reading this morning’s news of Microsoft buying Skype. To be fair, Microsoft has not really said that they’d curtail usage of the free skype-to-skype calling functionality, but this is Microsoft and they’re not really known for their free services.

I’ve always believed that the real reason why Skype is used by millions of people everyday is because everyone and their neighbor have a Skype account. It is true that when Skype launched about 8 years back, the audio quality of the service was miles ahead of any of their competitors at the time but with time (and increased Internet speeds) Skype has lost that edge and now there are a number of services that offer equivalent, if not better, quality than Skype.

Today I’ll feature some alternatives that I feel offer a much better experience than Skype, both in terms of functionality and quality.

iChat

iChat

If you’re a Mac user, there is no reason for you not to try out iChat. iChat is bundled with Mac OS X for free, works with AIM or Mobile Me accounts and has support for audio and video conferencing. The quality is excellent too. The only problem is that iChat is only available on Macs and unless your friends have an AIM account, there is no way for you to talk to them using iChat, although you can configure iChat to work with Facebook Chat. If you have a newer version of OS X, iChat now also supports Google Talk out of the box.

Google Talk

Google Talk

Google Talk is the big G’s, admittedly, very popular instant messaging client that integrates with Gmail better than any other IM client on the planet. And that is the biggest feature of Google Talk. You don’t even need to download client application to start using GTalk. Just login to your Gmail account and you’re logged in to GTalk. Audio and video calling is supported using a plugin that works on most modern web browsers. The quality is not so great but then if you’re going to be spending your day in Gmail anyway, you might as well start using GTalk for your communication needs also.

Oovoo

Oovo - Free Video Calling

Oovoo is not a traditional instant messaging service. Instead, Oovoo focusses on getting video calling right. All you need to start using Oovoo is a webcam, a microphone and of course, a broadband Internet connection. Video conferencing with upto three participants is free but you have the option to buy credits if you need more.

Fring

fring

Among all the services that I’ve mentioned so far, Fring is my personal favorite because of the simple fact that it doesn’t require a computer to use, is cross platform and has excellent quality. Fring works on Android, iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Symbian phones. Calls between fring users are free and if you need to call a landline or mobile phone number, you can do that too at very low competitive rates.

These were some of my favorite Skype alternatives. Do you guys use any alternative VOIP service ? Would you consider using any of these Skype killers ?

How To Stop Skype From Starting Automatically on Mac OS X

Skype LogoI have to confess I’m not a big Skype user. I live in India and the rates offered by skype for various locations are usually more than those offered by the local service providers so its much more convenient (and cheap) to just pick up the phone and call. But, I’m sure many among you, in this increasingly connected world of ours, are skype addicts .. oops, I meant fans. But, ever since I came to the US on a business trip, I’ve been using Skype more and more to speak to my wife and folks back home.

Here in the US, things are a little different. Skype offers better rates, and surprisingly better voice clarity and so it has become my preferred mode for calling anyone in the US. So, as soon as I got my new MacBook Pro, I installed Skype on it … and went to sleep. When I rebooted, skype came back up automatically. Now, I know most people have skype running on their computers all day long and prefer this behavior, but I don’t like to have programs load up automatically and so went around looking for a way to disable this behavior. Well, it turns out Skype doesn’t have an option to disable this “load on startup” behavior. So, if you’ve also tried to find this option and gave up in frustration, I’ve got two ways that you can disable skype and similar programs from loading on startup on Mac OS X. I hope you find this post informative.

Using The Skype Context Menu

One way to disable Skype from loading on startup is to right click the Skype icon in the OS X dock and then selecting (untick) the “Options->Open at Login” menu item.

Skype Right Click Context Menu

This will prevent Skype from starting up the next time you reboot.

The problem with this approach is that it only works for Skype and probably a few other applications but then you have to repeat the same process for all the applications.

If you want to control the startup behavior of all programs, a better place to do that is the StartUp Items that are defined for each user on OS X. I’ll show you how.

Disable Programs From The StartUp Items List

Open System Preferences and click on Accounts. This will take you to the user accounts management screen. Select your username from the list on the left hand side and click on the “Login Items” tab.

Login Items

Now, you can just uncheck those applications that you don’t want starting up automatically. The advantage of using this approach is that it’ll work for all applications and you can stop multiple applications from running at startup at the same time.

Did you find this tip useful ? Would you like to read about more such Mac OS X Tips ?