Blog Post

9 Great Alternatives to Skype for VoIP and Video Chat

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

While Darrell thinks that Microsoft (s msft) buying Skype in a $8.5 billion deal is probably good news for video chat users, there will probably be some Skype customers who are worried about the implications of the acquisition and may be looking for alternatives. While there’s probably no one service that provides a feature-for-feature replacement for Skype, there are plenty that offer great VoIP and video calling services, some of which are even better than Skype’s. Here is a list of some of our favorites:

VoIP/Phone service

  • Google Voice. Voice is Google’s phone service, which launched to much fanfare in March 2009. It provides free PC-to-PC voice and video calls, free PC-to-phone calls within the U.S. and cheap calls elsewhere (for users in the U.S. only). One of Google Voice’s most useful features (again, only available to U.S. residents) is that it enables users to have one number that they can use anywhere — any calls placed to that number will ring all of the users’ configured phones. The service also provides a range of useful additional features, such as voicemail, SMS, conference calling, call screening and transcription of voicemail messages.
  • Vbuzzer. A VoIP and IM service that, unlike Skype, is based on open protocols like XMPP and SIP. It offers free PC-to-PC calls, as well as paid-for PC-to-phone calls, with typically cheaper rates than Skype. It also features voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, web conferencing and fax service.
  • VoxOx. VoxOx is trying to be an “all-in-one” messaging app for both the desktop and mobile devices. It combines phone calls, IM, SMS, video chat, conference calling and even fax. It also provides similar “one number anywhere” functionality to Google Voice, and outgoing calls can be placed at competitive rates. While Charlie didn’t particularly like the Mac client when he reviewed it back in January, finding some shortcomings, it’s worth a look. The iPhone app is interesting because rather than relying on VoIP, it uses callbacks — the service can ring you on any convenient nearby phone line.
  • Viber. iPhone users looking for a way to make free VoIP calls should take a look at Viber, a VoIP app that allows iPhone-to-iPhone calling over 3G and Wi-Fi connections. The app is free, runs in the background, doesn’t have any ads and won’t charge you anything to make calls. Android and BlackBerry apps are apparently in the works, which would extend the app’s reach significantly.
  • Grasshopper. Looking for a step up from Skype to a more business-oriented virtual phone system? Grasshopper provides many of the features found in expensive office PBX systems for a fraction of the cost, including support for multiple users, each with their own extension, individual greetings, voicemail, web access and notifications by email or text message, as well as the ability to have local or toll-free numbers for people to call you on. Charlie was impressed by the product and its slick web interface when he reviewed it back in 2009. The type of advanced functionality you get comes at a higher cost than consumer-focused offering like Google Voice and Skype, however, with a range of plans available.
  • 8×8 Virtual Office Pro/Solo.  8×8 (s eght) provides another useful VoIP-based virtual business phone system. It’s available in two editions, Virtual Office Pro for businesses requiring multiple extensions, and Solo for individuals (see Charlie’s recent review). The system includes business numbers, voicemail, call waiting, music on hold, caller ID, three-way calling and the ability to record calls for storage as digital audio files. It costs $49.99 per extension per month for the Pro Edition or $7.99 per month for the Solo edition.

Video Chat

While some of the options listed above, like Google Voice,  provide video calling as part of the services they offer, there are also some dedicated video chat apps:

  • Tinychat. For multiuser video chats, Tinychat is great. It’s dead simple to use, requires no login, and has a clean interface. It’s Flash-based, (s adbe) so it should work in most browsers and up to 12 people can join a video chat simultaneously. The basic service is free.
  • ooVoo. ooVoo also provides free multiuser (up to six people simultaneously) video chat, and has clients available for Mac, PC and a wide range of mobile devices. It even allows for high-quality video calling over 3G wireless networks.
  • FaceTime. Apple’s video chat application is no longer just for iPhone users. With the launch of FaceTime for Mac in February, it works on Macs and any iOS device with a forward-facing camera, it makes it possible to place Mac-to-Mac, Mac-to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, and iPhone/iPod touch/iPad -to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad calls. Video quality is high, supporting up to 720p resolution on more recent Macs.

What are your favorite alternatives to Skype?

Photo courtesy Flickr user DanBrady

48 Responses to “9 Great Alternatives to Skype for VoIP and Video Chat”

  1. Richard Hull

    WARNING!!!! Do not use VBUZZER I downloaded it and it came with malware and now when I try to uninstall it, the prgram won’t let me.

    • Vince

      I’ve never had good quality calls on Google Voice. I’ve had people complain on the other end, so I ended up going back to Skype, and paying for calls. Still haven’t found an alternative that is as reliable and clear sounding as Skype.

  2. beccon

    Skype is hard to avoid as many have it. (network effect) I don’t like it. Now with Microsoft in it, even less. Anyway. For two contacts I had to reactivate it.

    For calling home I use Jitsi ( which is Open Source, Java – available for Windows, Linux, MacOS X), still beta somehow, but getting better every day. A normal Jabber account is enough.

    Jitsi is a XMPP/Jingle client with excellent voice and video as well as desktop sharing support. Besides Jabber it has all the usual suspect messengers: MSN, Yahoo, ICQ etc. Connectivity with GoogleTalk will follow.

  3. Dak Splunder

    Google Voice does *not* do video calling.
    However, Google Chat, which is free and part of Gmail, does. And the video quality is awesome, and setup is a breeze.

  4. Tom B

    I think Facetime is the big winner here. If Apple decides to do a MS Windows version as well, they can own this whole market.

    Bummer about Skype, though. The Board chose quick money over serving their customers.

  5. Hello all,
    You can also add YateClient to the list, an open-source Instant Messenger and a SoftPhone. It works on Windows, MAC and various Linux distros.
    It also uses XMPP and knows more protocols.
    Check it out :-)

  6. The list is ok but could you also give an indication of which one has the best UI/UX? I mean Facetime is great (unless you need IM or Windows support which makes it useful as a chocolate teapot), but crap like ooVoo looks like it has been designed by some dude at Microsoft.

  7. I use a mac & from this article I have no idea what alternatives I can or can’t use! This aspect of Simon Mackies article here rendered the whole thing a waste of my valuable time. His use of the term “PC”, as in “free PC-to-PC” etc. By “PC” some people mean any computer at all & other people mean a PC computer as opposed to a Mac.

  8. A Varghis

    I’ve tried Vsee( and it is quite good for free multi-party video conferencing over low-bandwidth.

    As per their website VSee supports application sharing, desktop sharing, movie sharing, file sharing, USB device sharing, and remote camera control.

  9. Hi,
    This is a member of the Viber Development Team! :)
    Thanks for putting Viber on your list. We are very happy that so many people worldwide are interested in our application.

    I would just like to add that the Beta version of Viber for Android is already out there, and we are looking forward to finish the testing phase, and hopefully release the official version soon.

    If you have any question about Viber – please feel free to ask.

    Thank you,
    the Viber Team.

  10. Darry Bozeman

    Please forward me this article”9 Great Alternatives to Skype for VoIP and Video Chat” to my email account; There was not email forwarding feature to this blog; You may consider adding this “email to a friend” feature.


  11. You left out Qik, Fring, Yahoo Messenger, Live Mobile video chat, Tango. All seem fairly comparable to Skype. I think which works best really often depends on the carrier.

  12. No one mentioned whether or not any of these services are encrypted in transit – as is Skype. One reason every government snoop hates SKYPE. A feature I don’t count on being supported by M$oft over time.

    • We don’t know exactly what will happen at the moment, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect that the Skype product will continue on the exact same development path as it was on pre-acquisition. Those changes may make the product better or worse, so it’s wise to have an idea of potential alternatives.