When looking for a video conferencing program, you think directly of the Skype software. Launched in 2003, Skype is now the most popular audio and video calling tool worldwide. Whether with a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet or a Smartphone, it is possible to contact another Skype user from anywhere. All you need to make a video call is a camera and microphone as well as free Skype software with a good internet connection.
However, there are now several free software programs for IP telephony, also known as voice over IP or “VoIP”. As with Skype, these programs can be used to perform communication with other users via video transmission. Besides, the majority of alternatives to Skype are free and some are in some respects better than the market leader, particularly with regard to data protection measures and policy. What are some really useful and innovative programs? In this article, we will give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the 13 best alternatives to Skype.
Pros and Cons of Skype
Skype is known worldwide for being much more than just a free IP telephony program. In addition to being able to communicate with another user via a video call, the application offers many other functions. For example, it is in particular possible with the Skype group calls function to bring together up to 50 users at the same time to your call and thus to carry out an effective video conference.
Another feature of Skype is instant messaging which allows you to send and exchange texts, files, photos, Internet links, etc. A major advantage of this feature is the fact that messages already sent can still be modified or deleted. In addition, thanks to screen sharing, it is possible to reflect the content of your own screen to other users, in order to share images, documents, presentations, etc. There are also clients (programs that communicate with the server application) for many operating systems (macOS, Windows, Linux) and mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile). Skype also offers a feature that allows full use of Skype and making a call with the web application directly and simply via the Internet browser.
All these features can be used for free, it is just necessary to verify that the different users have a Skype account in order to be able to access the different functions, however, there is another method of using Skype to contact people who do not have an account. Indeed, Skype is connected to the network of fixed and mobile telephone lines around the world. To access this service, the Skype user simply has to buy credit to make a call or send messages, at a competitive price.
Finally, there is also a paid version of the program (Microsoft Teams) which is intended for companies and professionals. Skype for Business offers additional functions, including the use of Microsoft Office 365 and additional security measures. The free version has been strongly criticized for its low level of security, it is the Achilles heel of this great software. Below you will find a summary of the pros and cons of Skype:
- Available for many platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile) with “Skype for the Web” the program can also be directly used via the browser as a simple Web application.
- Multiple functionalities: It is possible with the instant messaging service, to send text messages, and to modify or even delete them, it is also possible to exchange files (images, documents, etc.). In addition, screen sharing greatly facilitates dialogue between users.
- Video conference bringing together up to 50 people for the free version and up to 250 people for the paid version Skype for Business.
- Users do not know exactly who can access the contents of calls and messages. For example, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA, the US defense agency, could obtain certain content from Skype conversations via Microsoft.
- Poor data protection: The lack of protection on Skype has often been criticized. However, conversations between users are encrypted with the AES-256 method (the text of the messages partially uses the TLS protocol), but following the Skype privacy guide, the content of communications can sometimes be accessible to the authorities.
Best alternatives to Skype: 13 best video calling apps
Beyond the content protection debate, there are also good alternatives to Skype that stand out with creative and effective features. We are going to present you 13 different audio and video calling applications which have a free version, by listing the strengths and weaknesses of these.
Spike is a completely innovative chat tool thanks to its videophone solution, especially in the professional field. The program helps teams to make internal and external communication more effective. Developers have revolutionized the way email traffic is presented: inbound and outbound messages are displayed as in a chat or as in most popular email applications. The complete communication solution also includes VoIP, making Spike a real alternative to Skype. Spike allows you to make voice and video calls directly from the application.
If you want to work even more efficiently and communicate more directly with your colleagues, converting emails to chat messages is a useful function: the program removes everything that does not belong at the very heart of the message, and therefore only stores essential information. Spike also supports teamwork with other features: you can exchange files, encrypt application messages, and save a calendar.
Spike can be used on Windows and Mac, and mobile with iOS and Android, but also completely platform-independent in the web browser. If the program is free for private users, professional teams pay a fee per user account. It is not necessary to create your own user account to register: Spike uses the user’s existing email account.
Created in 1996, ICQ was originally a simple instant messaging system and was therefore popular in the 90s. However, the number of users has greatly decreased and the software has been strongly challenged by other programs over time. offering new services. ICQ now has many functions including video calling, but only between two users. However, an extension recently introduced the video conferencing option for many. ICQ works with an end-to-end encryption system (or End-to-end encryption) for Windows, Android, and iOS.
Otherwise, ICQ now has a lot of similarities with Skype, the software can also be used to make calls on fixed and mobile lines by buying credit, and text messages can be sent, as a whole the application is well built with many functions. However, its lack of popularity today represents a handicap and with the current strong competition, it is often difficult for an old actor to regain market shares.
Jitsi free software is particularly intended for users who attach great importance to the confidentiality of conversations. All calls (with or without the video option) are indeed encrypted. You can freely activate the encoding of your conversations. There is officially no limit on the number of participants for a video conference, but in practice, this number is limited by the capacity of computers and the speed of Internet connections. Another advantage of Jitsi is that it is not necessary to create a user account to be able to use the service, it is possible to use the variant for the browser: Jitsi Meet. With this application, with a single click, it is possible to open a conversation and add participants by sending a simple link.
Jitsi can be used via Linux. The mobile version exists for Android and iOS.
In 2013, following revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden, particularly concerning the private data of Skype users, an anonymous developer decided to launch the Tox program. The logo with a padlock symbolizes the central concern of this new program: data protection. All conversations are indeed protected with the End-to-end (or end-to-end in French) encryption system. The goal is that no one can access the content of the conversations. Even the IP address is only visible to other participants in the conversation. Finally, data transmission is carried out via the Peer to peer model(peer to peer in French) rather than via a central server. This means that data is exchanged directly between users’ computers in the same conversation. This system, therefore, prevents an external user from having access to the data of a conversation. It is therefore clear that the main strength of this new program is its emphasis on security, it prides itself in particular on being the answer in this field to classic applications of instant messaging and video and audio calls which do not guarantee them. always optimal protection. In addition, the program was not developed for commercial purposes.
Tox offers classic features (audio and video calls, instant messaging, file transfer), a desktop sharing option is also available, and the program works on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Users can exchange their contact data with a specific Tox-ID. As the Tox software is still in the beta test phase, it is possible that errors may occur as reported by the publisher on its website. However, if you are looking for the best security, these errors should not dissuade you from using this program. Indeed Tox offers today the best at this level.
Many of Viber’s functions are similar to those of Skype. This ranges from VoIP to instant messaging and the ability to transfer documents, and as with Skype, it is possible to use Viber to make phone calls to landlines and mobiles by purchasing credit. A video call can only be made between two users. The tool is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
However, Viber has received bad press recently due to the abnormal collection of a large volume of user data and has therefore breached European data protection law. Even information about people who do not have a Viber account has been stored. In 2016, to face criticism, Viber now offers (except for calls to landline and mobile phones) End-to-end encryption, which secures the content of conversations. Ultimately, Viber has many features, but like so many other good alternatives to Skype, it has relatively few users and continues to have a rather negative image.
Another product in the Facebook range is also a good alternative to Skype. While WhatsApp was originally just an app for written messages, you can now use it for voice and video telephony. In addition, photos, videos and voice messages can be sent back and forth. Besides the well-known versions for Android and iOS, there are also desktop solutions for Mac and Windows, but also a web version for the browser.
Although you can chat with 256 people in a group at the same time, the video conference is limited to four people.
But probably the biggest advantage of WhatsApp is its massive popularity: it is very likely that friends and acquaintances also use the application. WhatsApp not only shares the benefits of Facebook Messenger, but they also have one big downside in common. As a Facebook product, many users are very concerned about the lack of attention given to privacy, even though WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption.
FaceTime is an audio and video calling application developed specifically for Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac for example). FaceTime allows 32 people to participate simultaneously in a video conference.
Launched in 2016, the Google Duo application, like FaceTime, has a minimalist approach. The application, therefore, offers basic services, including video calls, but only between two users, while video conferences allow the inclusion of 8 participants. But unlike the Apple application, Google Duo offers an original function: “Knock Knock”, the latter allows you to see the caller on video before even accepting the call, but only if he is part of the contacts. The application also allows its users to send video messages. Google Duo is available for Android but also for iOS. It is not necessary to have a Google account to use the application, the simple addition of a phone number is necessary. In addition, it is also possible to use the Web version.
The Hangouts app is generally viewed as Google’s attempt to compete with the WhatsApp instant messaging app. Available for Android and iOS, Google Hangouts is also available as a web application that can be accessed simply through the browser. It is, therefore, possible to chat by instant messaging and share files as well as to carry out video conferences with a limit of 10 participants for the same conversation.
Since 2015, it is possible to invite a user who does not have a Google account for a video conference. Finally, with the release in 2016 of Google Duo and Google Allo, the managers of the service spoke of the turn of Hangouts towards the business world.
Launched in 2011, Japanese free instant messaging is very similar to Skype in terms of options. It also offers video telephony between two users. But as on Facebook, it is possible to create a history or a chronology and to share photos, videos, etc. with other users, thus building a small social network with your contacts. Messages and files can be saved to a specific file using the “Keep” function. Finally, game applications, new designs, and stickers are available on this tool. The Line application is very popular in Asia, especially in Japan, but has faced many criticisms regarding its lack of data protection, however, it now has a system end-to-end encryption for all communications.
WeChat is available for most operating systems, only Linux is not yet supported. Chinese software was launched in 2011 and quickly met with great success in his native country, which remained his main market. The application resembles the functionality level of Line and therefore has instant messaging, as well as IP telephony with or without video transmission (the latter can be carried out with a maximum of 9 participants). It is also possible to share documents and files via a sort of chronicle, a newsfeed for editing messages. Finally, small video games and stickers for instant messaging are available in the purchase section of the application, but also a range of services such as booking a taxi or making an appointment with a doctor.
The advantage of the broad spectrum of functionality is however offset by the fact that this software was developed by a Chinese publisher. However, the Internet in China is still very tightly controlled and dependent on government authorities. Many Western programs like Facebook are still banned and WeChat has therefore been able to gain an important place in the Chinese market. However, the application is subject to Chinese privacy rules and does not offer good data protection. The editor thus has access to a good number of your personal data and the communications carried out via WeChat are not secure, only the message history is encrypted. The location of the servers has an important influence on the storage of data; WeChat is enough on this point opaque and therefore has the worst data protection alternatives to Skype.
Wire instant messaging is only compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. However, it is also possible to use this program directly via your web browser. The software offers classic features such as instant messaging and audio (with 5 users maximum) and video (only between two users) calls. Finally, it is also possible to share with other users content from YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, and Spotify.
Many interesting Skype alternatives
The summary table shows in particular which applications allow you to make a video call with more than two users: in addition to Skype, many applications offer this option. For the rest of the features, the services are rather similar to those of Skype. Instant messaging is offered by almost all software (except Google Duo and FaceTime). Finally sending and transferring files is possible with the majority of alternatives to Skype.
Users should take into account that the use of these applications on a mobile device such as a Smartphone, quickly consumes your available data volume. This is why it is recommended to use a local Internet network, powerful if possible, in particular, to make your video calls, which will also ensure better audio and video quality.