Bye Bye Skype, Top 3 Free Replacements

by Susan Linton - May. 12, 2011Comments (31)

telephoneSkype has always been proprietary so those that prefer to use only Open Source have relied upon free alternatives. Now with Microsoft's purchase of Skype, Linux users are already predicting the end for them and are looking for alternatives as well. It turns out that the Free Software Foundation has had "Free software replacement for Skype" on their High-Priority List for a while.

The FSF suggests that folks use one of the free programs available for Linux and help development by sending in bug reports. They cite China's spying on Skype conversations as a good reason. Does anyone doubt Microsoft is capable of similar? So, even if Microsoft doesn't give Linux (and Mac) users the kibosh, I wouldn't trust them and proprietary software with my phone calls.

Quite an extensive list of alternatives is already compiled at the FSF, some of which I'd never heard of before. But several bring a familiar ring - if you'll pardon the pun.

1. Linphone - Linphone is an internet phone or VoIP much like Skype. It seems the page at the FSF needs a bit of updating, because Linphone 3.4.0 was released in February 2011. The news page states that "the main point of this new release is support for multiple simultaneous calls, with pause, resume and transfer functionality." It is released under the GNU GPL v2 license and commercial support is available as well. It comes in binaries for Debian-based distros or build from source. Here's a screenshot from the Linphone Website:



2. Ekiga - Ekiga was formerly known as GnomeMeeting, which many have heard of. GnomeMeeting used to come with lots of distributions and Ekiga is still seen in several. So, check your distribution's repos. It provides "SoftPhone, Video Conferencing and Instant Messenger application[s] over the Internet" and supports SIP and H.323. Ekiga is released under the GPL and comes in binaries for lots of distros and in source code. Again, scarfed screenshot from Ekiga Website:



3. Empathy - "Empathy is a messaging program which supports text, voice, and video chat and file transfers over many different protocols." This one is probably most well known because of its inclusion in Ubuntu. 3.1 was released May 9. It is released under the GPL and comes in binaries for Ubuntu. Looks like others will have to build it from source. Again, shamelessly stolen screenshot:



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It's time, come on open source, let's put the gauntlet down.

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"It is released under the GPL and comes in binaries for Ubuntu. Looks like others will have to build it from source."

Empathy is the default IM client of GNOME itself, and *every* distribution builds it from source. It's available on Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian, Arch... virtually every Linux distro with reasonably recent GNOME packages should have it.

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Jitsi (fka SIP Communicator) also is an interesting alternative. It is LGPL licensed and implemented in Java.

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Skype, easy to use and cross platform.

3 "alternatives" are not.

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Tell me one thing.

How am I going to convince my friends on Windows to switch to one of these alternatives as long as Skype works flawlessly on their machines?

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Not open source, but I just use google chat, it has a video option that works great for me in linux.

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a great open source cross-platform option:

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If you use Ekiga or the other projects above to connect over for example the MSN network, then all your messages are STILL in the hands of Microsoft. It does not change things if you instead use Googles Chat server - then all your messages are indexed by Google instead... What we are looking for is a true alternative chat system PKI encrypted P2P communication with support for voice and web cams. What is the status of such projects like GNU Telephony, Gnu Gatekeeper, Jabber, Asterisk and so on for providing a true alternative for end to end communication without leaving all your messages on any 3rd party server? Leaving Skype to use the MSN network is simply pointless. Sure - having an interface that allows talks over Skype and MSN for backward compatibility with friends on dinosaur networks are ok, but what matters is to not depend upon such centralized networks.

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I don't use Skype or other internet call's so I don't know: Do you mean these alternatives can talk to Skype user?

MS as PC-monopoly will take care Skype for linux is a "light" version if is working at all.

What we need is open standards communication channels. But that too would be dangering MS monopoly.

People should just wake up an realise that monopoly is bad in every way and start to demands for open standard solution where new software could come also from other vendors (open or closed).

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There are excellent alternatives to Skype. Some, like Brosix, are even better. Although proprietary, like Skype, Brosix offers users a free client with nearly as many features as its proprietary version. Besides chatting, among its other abilities are:

screen sharing

either end of a conversation taking remote control of the other's desktop


Brosix has one limitation -- to use video and/or audio one's computer must use an Intel video and sound chip, otherwise the video and audio will be one sided.

Brosix also offers a free web client connection to its sip servers for registered users.

Ekia is both cross platform and offers video & audio communication, along with PC --->phone connections using the sip servers. The phone rates are similar to Skypes. Ekiga also allows conferencing. It is GPL and the VOIP connections are free.

Blink was written using Qt4 and is under the GPL and free at It is the BEST audio and audio conferencing VOIP there is. There are a couple videos accessible from the 'Screenshots" website link which show its audio conferencing capabilities, which are awesome. It, too, offers PC --> phone connections at the same rates as Skype but unlike Ekiga and Skype, it does not run a bandwidth hogging deamon with an icon in the system tray telling you when ever another Blink user log on or off of the SIP server.

All of these VOIP clients have one weakness. If you run Ekiga, for example, you can't communicate with someone who has registered with Blink's SIP server. To communicate all parties have to register with the same SIP server.

One can, however, create their own VOIP server on their own Internet website using Asterisks, or something similar, and then give all their friends and business associates access, which limits the bandwidth usage just to those users and also makes communications more secure from man-in-the-middle attacks. SIP servers are, after all, a man in the middle.

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There is NO encryption in ANY of the software mentioned on this page. Anybody can incept your messages, not just one entity.


In other words, none of the presented options are alternatives for Skype in the current offering. Better take a look at some of the solutions that do offer some level of security.

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as far as i know, the ekiga planned to provide encryption in their latest version. However nothing really happened.

plus i don't use skype as an im software. the major use lies in pc-to-phone.

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Whereas none of those mentioned here are of interest, I am noticing that XMPP with Jingle now offers video chat, voice chat, conference calls, and IM! Projects that support Jingle includes Asterisk, FreeSWITCH, Pidgin, Jitzi, and a lot of others including Google Talk and Empathy (when combined with the Telepathy framework).

The one looking most interesting to me right now might be Jitzi. Of course, Pidgin is also high on my list as it can connect to mostly all other networks.

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The most important thing about these alternative apps is that they operate with each other. Ekiga can communicate with Linphone and Empathy, Empathy can communicate with Linphone and Ekiga, and every other combination of SIP based standard phone implementations.

Put that in your Skype and smoke it.


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With regards to VoIP encryption, maybe Zfone can help. It's another encryption project by Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP:

What is Zfone?

Zfone is a new secure VoIP phone software product which lets you make secure encrypted phone calls over the Internet. Zfone is not itself a VoIP client, but lets you make secure calls with your existing VoIP client, by filtering, encrypting and decrypting all your VoIP media packets as they pass in and out of your computer. You can use a variety of different software VoIP clients to make a VoIP call. It's as if Zfone were a "bump on the wire", sitting between the VoIP client and the Internet. Think of it as a software bump-on-the-wire, or a bump in the protocol stack.

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"by Bob Jonkman on May. 15, 2011

The most important thing about these alternative apps is that they operate with each other. Ekiga can communicate with Linphone and Empathy, Empathy can communicate with Linphone and Ekiga, and every other combination of SIP based standard phone implementations.

Put that in your Skype and smoke it."

Hey 'Bob'.... Just wanted to point out the seriously obvious here that went straight over your head. Skype is encrypted. Which is why it's not usable by all those that you mentioned, which are, in fact, open to anyone that wants to listen in!

So put that in YOUR pipe and smoke it.

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The alternatives are not goot enough, because 99% of our contacts will continue to use skype.

We need a voip software that is multiplatform and have a powerfull marketing strategy to actually attract users from Skype.

Sadly, I don't see that happening.

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I thought that skype open sourced their API quite a few years ago. I'm wondering if that would be useful, though MS would most likely follow with obsoleting it.

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It would first and foremost interest me if Hotmail IM + Skype are going to get integrated.

Why isn't it possible to do something cross platform with Firefox ?


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How could you miss "Jitsi" ? The best Voip+IM client! :)

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I really shouldn't be surprised by these type of religious knee-jerk reactions from the freetard community any more... *sigh*

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Which one can I use to place calls to local US and toll-free?

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What about Gtalk (with voice and video straight in your browser), cross platform and not that difficult to ask others to convert to?

(not open source thou)

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Does an installation of Ekiga come bundled with the contact details of that hot chick?

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Why nobody is mentioning GNU SIP Witch ? It is secure P2P softphone:

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There is no way Skype is going to be replaced by a SIP Client.

The SIP protocol does not deal with the complexity of a nat2nat connection (which skype does). So the real answer is: is a p2p infrastructure that permits to solve the infamous nat2nat problem being developed?

I undestand that GNU Sip Witch could be an answer but, as of now, it's not viable by any means.

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All those three are crap. Open source guys, build something good.

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The ELEPHANT in the Skype camp that people seem to be ignoring is the fact that when run on a Linux machine with a fast CPU, lots of RAM ... AND ... a wide/fast bandwidth, Skype sets up a SuperNode without asking permission. The node does NOT go away when Skype is closed. One must reboot to get rid of it. Windows users have the option to disable the SuperNode if they wish. How many Windows users even know about the node is another question.

Another elephant is Microsoft's history with some of its other purchased, or purloined, "innovations". They have a tendency to fail in the market place and disappear. I suspect that Skype for Linux and Mac will probably be allowed to languish at their current versions until users gradually move to something else, and that Microsoft will plunder Skype for technology to make a part of its OS. That is how they used IE to competed with Netscape. Recently we have Nokia and Qt4 as another example. Last November, shortly after Stephen Elop (a former MS exec and 3th largest individual shareholder of MS stock) arrived at Nokia, he gave a Rah-rah speech about how MeGo, Symbian and Qt4 were the foundations of Nokia's future, but he already had plans to abandon Symbian and MeGo, which he did. He sold off Qt4's commercial customers. He laid off most of Nokia's software developers, turning Nokia into a mere hardware company whose sole product will be Win Phone 7. Now, it seems that there is a move underfoot to shift Qt4 away from C++ and back to a failed Java dependency (Jambi). Microsoft's influence is all too obvious. If it continues along its present course Qt4 will lose its "cross platform" capability, eliminating Qt4 & QtCreator's threat to VS on Windows.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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Bye Bye Skype

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Jerry Kreps: You can call outside of a particular network, regardless of the domain, as long as you are all using standards based sip services. For instance, you can get an or sip address like:

username @ and ANYONE with a sip address like this one, even one outside of the domain is reachable and can be reached. If not, the SIP registrar service you are using is NOT properly supporting SIP.

This cross domain facility is the beauty of SIP.

Shameless plug: I work for the company behind OnSIP and Getonsip. You can sign up for a FREE address in seconds. You'll get a free SIP/XMPP address which you can use for Internet calls, video and IM on ANY compatible client including Blink, Jitsi, Counterpath Bria, Polycom IP phones, etc.

Oh, and it works natively on Nexus S using the latest release. No software client needed!


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As much as I like Open Source and choose to use it wherever I can when it comes to something like a replacement for Skype the three products mentioned are completely inadequate.

To be practical in the real world, as opposed to being used by a bunch of geeks using only Linux, any Phone type system must be cross platform. i.e. As an absolute bare minimum clients must exist for ALL major platforms.

Like it or not, Linux users must be able to communicate with people using Windows or Mac. While it could be argued that Mac users could build from source the reality is that Mac users rarely do so for the simple reason that it goes completely against the reasons they chose a Mac, just as is the case with Windows users. While Linux users may find that mindset strange that's how it is for at least 99% of users.

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