If 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.
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 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 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.
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 ?