When thinking of a video chat program, the first name that comes to mind is undoubtedly Skype. This service, born in 2003, is the most used application for videoconferencing on the Internet . Regardless of the device used, be it a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, or the place where the user is, this video call application allows to establish contact with other users. To make video calls, all you need is a terminal with a camera and microphone, the free Skype software and an Internet connection.
However, there are other free applications for IP telephony (also called Voice over IP or VoIP), which also allow video transmission between interlocutors. Most of these alternatives to Skype are available for free and some even stand out for their features and their data protection measures, unknown in the case of the veteran application. With this information, it is not surprising that they are beginning to outnumber mobile telephony. Now, what are the alternatives to Skype that are really worth it? Read below for the strengths and weaknesses of both Skype and the alternative video calling apps we have selected for you.
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Advantages and disadvantages of Skype
Skype is the most established video calling application on the market (source: https://www.skype.com/es/).
As is well known, Skype is more than a free IP telephony program; In addition to the possibility of seeing the interlocutors through video broadcasting, the application stands out for a function to carry out conferences that supports up to 50 Skype accounts participating at the same time .
Skype also has an instant messaging service for exchanging messages and files that allows you to edit or delete sent messages. The screen sharing function allows other users of the application to access the screen contents of those with whom they are communicating. With this screen transmission method, you can share images, documents or presentations with other users. There are Skype client programs for many operating systems (macOS, Windows, Linux) and mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile), although it can also be used as a web application or web app in the browser (Skype for Web).
All the mentioned functions are free, although the interlocutors need to have a Skype account to establish contact. To talk to people who do not yet have a Skype account, since Skype is connected to both the landline and the land mobile network, calls and SMS are paid, usually at a cheaper price, with a purchased credit in advance.
With Microsoft Teams, companies have a non-free variant of the application at their disposal. This has the advantages of
integrate Microsoft 365 and better protect the content of conversations. The data protection of the free version, on the other hand, has often been called into question. Along with the aforementioned strengths, the lack of security of user data is the biggest weakness of the free version of Skype, as can be deduced from the list of pros and cons:
15 free alternatives to Skype for making video calls
First of all, it should be said that many video chat programs raise the same controversies in terms of data protection as Skype, although there are some providers in this sector that are increasingly focused on ensuring the security of the contents of the communication. Some services have specialized on their own initiative in the aspect of data protection, while there are others that are increasingly forced, by increasing criticism and public pressure, to create privacy policies more oriented to customers and to use encryption techniques.
Leaving the data protection debate aside, there are numerous high-quality Skype alternatives that stand out for their practical and original features. Let’s see what are the strengths and weaknesses of these programs to make video calls.
IONOS Video Chat
The program runs on servers in Germany and is therefore subject to strict European data protection standards. In fact, no personal data is collected from users. The storage of cookies in the browser does not even have to be authorized. The only thing that does require the user’s permission is the use of the camera and microphone to ensure the use of all the functions of the software . TLS connection encryption protects communication from unauthorized third-party access.
It is a tool designed, above all, to organize spontaneous meetings in a small circle, since it limits participation to 24 users. The organizer has the option to deactivate the microphone of the participants entering the meeting by default and activate it later to avoid interruptions.
Already an innovative chat tool, Spike captivates especially in the professional sector by helping to make communication in teams, both among its members and with external partners, more efficient. To achieve this, among other innovations, developers have revolutionized the visual presentation of the email exchange; incoming and outgoing emails are displayed in the chat format we know from messaging applications. But this competent collaborative solution also integrates VoIP, which makes it an alternative to Skype with which to carry out voice or video calls.
If you are looking for a closer and direct collaboration with co-workers, Spike’s proposal to convert email into chat messages is a very helpful feature, because this way the program leaves out what does not count as content itself and concentrates on what is important. But the application further enhances cooperation within teams with other options, such as sending files, encrypting messages from the app, and managing a centralized calendar.
Spike can be used on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android systems, or also in the browser, free of charge for individuals and in subscription mode per account for professional teams. The good news is that it is not necessary to create a user account, since the application uses the email account that the user already has.
Zoom offers a wide catalog of very friendly features and free services (source: https://zoom.us/).
Due to the increase in teleworking during the coronavirus crisis, interest in virtual meetings via Zoom has grown exponentially. According to data from the company itself, in April 2020 300 million people around the globe participated in Zoom videoconferences daily, in contrast to 10 million participants per day in December 2019. Zoom , the first of our selection of alternatives to Skype, stands out for its fremium modelsubscription, which offers various features at no cost. Video calls between two parties, for example, are unlimited, and if a video conference does not exceed 40 minutes in length, it supports up to 100 participants for free. The apps, with a user-friendly and intuitive design, are compatible with all current devices and operating systems, and the organization of the meetings does not involve any difficulty. Only the organizers have to register and download the program; with a link they can invite the rest of the participants.
Users trust the stability of Zoom’s cloud-based infrastructure. Calls and conferences are conducted in HD picture and sound quality and generally run without glitches or drops. But data security and protection are not without criticism: while the company has been able to respond quickly to some security problems, data protection remains insufficient. In this sense, for example, it should be mentioned that, for the moment, only point-to-point encryption is foreseen for paid subscriptions.
ICQ has lost much of the popularity it had in the nineties (source: https://icq.com/windows/es)
ICQ was born in 1996 as a mere instant messaging service that became very popular in the 1990s, but today has seen its number of users drop drastically. For this reason, ICQ has developed into a multifaceted application with which video calls can also be made, although this function is only available for two user profiles. However, since mid-2016 the platform offers a special feature: the default end-to-end encryption for video chats for Windows, Android and iOS.
For the rest, this video calling application has many similarities with Skype , such as the rate for making calls to mobiles and landlines. The sending of text messages has not been altered by the implementations and continues as it was in the beginning. In general, the ICQ functionality is quite great. In the past, the application became one of the market leaders as a chat program, but it cannot be said that this will be repeated, since the competition already has a great advantage in terms of the number of users.
Jitsi also allows videoconferences from the browser (source: https://meet.jit.si/)
The open source software Jitsi is intended for users for whom it is very important to protect their conversations against eavesdropping , since it encrypts all calls (with or without video). Furthermore, the content encryption function can also be activated in chat. When it comes to the number of participants in video conferences, there is no official limit, but the number depends, in general, on the performance of the computer in question and the speed of the Internet connection. Something unusual about this application is that to use the service it is not necessary to register, but you can use the web tool Jitsi Meet,which can be accessed from the browser. In this case, with one click you can open a conversation and send a link to other people to participate in the conversation.
Jitsi can be installed on Linux systems and on Android and iOS mobile operating systems.
In 2013, following the US National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandal, an anonymous developer started working on the Tox program . The padlock on your logo already implies that data protection is an essential aspect of the service. Any type of communication carried out with the application is secured through end-to-end encryption, thus ensuring that, apart from the interlocutors themselves, no one else has access to the contents of the conversations. In this way, the IP address will only be visible to the participants in the communication.
The data transmission does not take place through a central server, but using peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, with whichthe datathey are exchanged directly between the computers involved in the conversation, which prevents external users from accessing the conversations and the data being exchanged. The developers envision their software as a counter-blueprint for most video conferencing and messaging applications that do not guarantee any type of security against eavesdropping, but rather collect user data. It is worth mentioning here that there is no hidden commercial interest behind the program.
Along with the usual functions such as voice and video calls, instant messaging or file transfer, this alternative to Skype also makes screen sharing available to its users and is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux devices , Android and iOS. The exchange of contact data with other users is carried out with a special identifier (Tox ID). The beta version of Tox may still contain bugs,factor referred to by the creators of Tox on the application’s own website. However, this is not something that should scare those who place great importance on security in video calls, VoIP or instant messaging. Overall, Tox offers significantly effective and significant security measures, so a higher level of data protection cannot be asked for.
Viber contains very attractive functions for digital communication (source: https://www.viber.com/en/features/).
Viber’s features are also very similar to Skype’s .The programit masterfully handles VoIP telephony with or without image transfer, as well as instant messaging and file transfer. It also allows the classic paid calls, but only two users can participate in videoconferences. Another of its characteristics is that the service is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS clients.
However, Viber gave rise to the talk due to the unusual capture of a large number of user data, thus contravening European legislation on data protection . Viber even saved the data of people who were not registered in it. Since 2016, the application includes (apart from calls to landlines and mobiles) end-to-end encryption, whose objective is to guarantee the security of the contents. Overall, Viber can be thought of as a highly functional application that, compared to other alternatives to Skype, has a smaller number of users and raises some doubts regarding data protection.
There are many people who do not know that Facebook chat also gives the option of making video calls, both in the desktop version, and in the Messenger application for Android and iOS. Through the app, you can make voice and video calls with up to 50 different profiles . The strong diffusion of the social network is one of the great advantages that come with this application: probably, many of your friends and acquaintances are already part of your contacts on the platform, so that voice or video calls over the Internet can done in a jiffy. The biggest drawback is, on the contrary, that the communication is not encrypted by default(although apparently it is in the plans) and that Facebook is not very well valued in terms of the protection of sensitive information.
Another product in the Facebook catalog has become a powerful alternative to Skype. While at the beginning WhatsApp only offered written instant messaging, in the meantime it already allows making voice and video calls, functions that join the sending of photos, videos and voice messages to complete the tool. However, if you can chat with up to 256 people in a group at the same time, the video conference is limited to four participants. In addition to the popular versions for Android and iOS, it is also offered as a local installation for Mac and Windows and, with WhatsApp Web, as an online application.
The biggest advantage of WhatsApp, however, is related to the massive popularity of the program. The probability that the closest family or social circle will also use the tool is certainly high. But this great point in favor is not the only thing he shares with his closest relative, Messenger, with whom he also has his greatest disadvantage in common: as a Facebook product, doubts about the attention the company devotes to protection data is huge, even though WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption.
FaceTime is the video calling application from Apple (source: https://support.apple.com/es-es/HT204380)
The minimalist FaceTime is a video chat program designed by Apple for home devices (iPhone, iPad and Mac) that only offers the option of Internet telephony, either with or without video. In the Apple application it is possible to videoconference with up to 32 participants at the same time.
Google Duo, Google’s alternative to Skype (source: https://duo.google.com/)
The Google Duo app , released in May 2016, resembles FaceTime in simplicity. Also here the main function is video calls between two participants, although it allows video conferences of up to 8. However, there are some differences. In contrast to the Apple app, with the “Knock Knock” feature, the called party can see who is on the other end of the phone before answering thanks to a live preview . Also, the application allows its users to send video messages.
Google Duo is available for Android and iOS devices. Users of Apple mobile devices do not have to create an extra Google account to use the application, but the phone number is more than enough. It is also available as a web application.
Hangouts is the technology giant’s second alternative to Skype (source: https://hangouts.google.com/?hl=es)
The Hangouts appIt is considered by many as an attempt by Google to compete with WhatsApp in the instant messaging market. Offered for Android and iOS systems, as well as web app, you can not only chat with other Hangouts users or share files with them, but also hold video conferences in which a total of up to 10 users can participate. Since the end of 2015, people not registered on the platform can also be invited to participate in video calls, which can be part of the conversation through the browser. Since the appearance of Google Duo and Google Allo (another instant messaging platform) in 2016, it seems increasingly clear that Google Hangouts is going to lose relevance in favor of these two applications. In relation to this,
The free instant messaging application of Japanese origin offers many features known to competitors such as WhatsApp. Among these, Line also presents, in addition to the classic instant messaging functions, the possibility of videoconferencing between two users. However, the application goes even a little further: as in Facebook, in Line you can also create a biography or timeline to share photos, videos and much more with other Line users, thus creating a small social network with the users. contacts. Both messages and files can be saved in a separate folder through the “Keep” function and games, stickers can also be purchasedand new designs. Line has received much criticism in the past for poor data security, but it has learned its lesson. Since then, communication is encrypted using the end-to-end method.
WeChat is available for almost all operating systems, with Linux being the only exception. The functionality of the video call application is similar to that of Line; In addition to the classic features such as the chat function, IP telephony with or without video transmission (for a total of 9 participants) or file transfer, this application also allows you to create a kind of chronicle for posts and messages . To access other functions, use the in-app purchase options ; You can not only access video games and digital stickers for Messenger, but also services such as online shopping or booking taxis or medical appointments.
This rare broad spectrum of features is due to the fact that WeChat was developed by a Chinese company. In this country,Internet use is much more controlled by the government than in America or Europe and even many services such as Facebook are blocked. Therefore, WeChat becomes a very popular possibility to carry out everyday tasks in the online world of the East Asian country. However, the application is subject to extremely weak data protection in this country, which entitles WeChat providers to access an immense amount of user data. Neither communication in the application stands out for its security and only the history of the messages is saved in an encrypted way. Added to this is the impossibility of knowing where the servers are, when their location essentially determines the quality of protection of the data they host.
Therefore, it can be said that, of all the services mentioned so far, it is WeChat that probably has the most opaque and weak data protection of all .
The Wire instant messaging app can be installed on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS devices or used in the online browser. Wire also features the typical functions of a messaging service: a chat function with file transfer, as well as audio calls (with up to 5 user accounts) and video (between four users). Furthermore, content from YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud and Spotify can also be shared with other Wire users.
Along with the free version, the company also has solutions for companies . With the choice of a professional subscription, the software can be used for internal communication in the company and the conversations stored on the own servers. With Wire Red it provides a service that must guarantee the maintenance of communication in crisis situations.
Many good alternatives to Skype
The table above shows that there are already many applications with which you can videoconference with more than two devices .It also highlights the similarity in thefunctionality of most of these services, and that is that instant messaging is a common denominator for almost all programs (with the exception of Google Duo and FaceTime). Also, many applications also make file submission possible.
It is also significant that many of these applications have been modified in terms of their data protection terms , although there are still practically no applications that are truly secure. Only three of the aforementioned services, Jitsi, Tox and Wire , are exemplary in terms of security against spying on conversations and the storage of user data such as audio, sound and text content.
It should also be noted that the use of video calling applications on mobile devices over wireless connections can considerably reduce the volume of data, so in the case of video telephony, the use of local networks is usually recommended , especially if It has a very powerful Internet connection. With this in mind, there will be nothing to get in the way of video calling.