There are now many alternatives to Skype since Skype became one of the early success stories when it came to easy-access VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). By the end of 2010 it had recorded over 600 million users around the world.
However, after Microsoft bought Skype in 2012 they began to make changes, adding some features, while removing others, while also integrating it into its Office suite of software applications. Not all users were happy about the acquisition and following changes, and with the growth of rival services, a number of Skype users began to migrate to these.
Since then, the technology has matured and the availability of easy-access VoIP has become widespread, meaning that users are now spoiled for choice. Even better for users is that communications are no longer restricted to just phone calls, as video calling has now become a feature in many freely available services.
However, while there are a lot of free alternatives, for business there are paid options available to ensure the best quality for calls and video. Even still, for many business users they will want to have a dedicated VoIP service for business and additionally use their own hardware, such as VoIP phones.
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Here then we'll list some of the best alternatives to Skype, not least in terms of features, support, ease of use, and accessibility.
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Best Skype alternatives - at a glance
The best Skype alternative
WhatsApp is our pick for the best Skype alternative. This messaging service has taken the world by storm, so there's a good chance that you already have it installed on your smartphone or PC.
WhatsApp offers plenty of features to rival Skype, including text messaging, voice and video calls, and group chat. It also offers both web and desktop clients.
You don’t even need to create an account to use it – just a mobile phone number.
Perhaps most famously, WhatsApp also provides end-to-end encryption, which guarantees you a degree of privacy.
For business users, you can easily share documents and there's a WhatsApp business API as well.
A great Skype alternative for Gmail users
Google Hangouts is another popular alternative to Skype that offers a lot of the same features, including high definition video calling, group chats and instant messaging. If you use Gmail, or your company uses G Suite, then you'll find Google Hangouts an excellent choice for VoIP thanks to its integration.
Google Hangouts is easy to use, and there's a free version though call quality with that isn't so good as the paid-for version. You can also easily share your screen, which makes it useful for collaboration and showing presentations.
Google Hangouts does have a limit on the number of people who can join a video call at once, which can be annoying if you have a large company.
One of the best Skype alternatives for security
Viber offers text, voice and video calls free of charge, and if you are willing to pay, you can use Viber Out to make calls to any phone number in the world – and this can even be used from the desktop.
Group calling is a great feature for groups of friends, and there is the usual selection of stickers to choose from. Viber prides itself on being 'ad lite', which means while there are some ads, such as at the end of video calls, they shouldn't be intrusive.
Viber also offers end-to-end encryption to help ensure that calls are protected, secure, and remain private, but you can also delete messages once seen for added privacy.
The best Skype alternative for businesses
If you're looking for the best Skype alternative for business use, then WebEx is the service to go for.
Webex offers a large amount of features for video conferencing, allowing employees from all over the world to work together and collaborate on projects.
It can be used for training, supporting customers and much more, and for an additional fee, you can also include international voice calls.
Webex also integrates with your business calendar, as well as platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Facebook Live.
The best open source Skype alternative
If you're looking for an open source Skype alternative that prioritises the privacy of its users, then Jami - which used to be known as Ring - is the one to go for.
Jami has a professional-looking design and is available for a wide range of platforms. Unlike other Skype alternatives, calls using Jami are direct between users, so it doesn't use servers to handle calls.
This gives you even greater privacy, as the decentralized nature of Jami means your calls are only between you and the person you're calling - no one else can see (or hear).
Jami has got a good selection of features, such as HD video calling, instant messaging, voice messaging, and file sharing. It's also totally free to use.
Free, browser-based chat for up to 15 people, and no software required
Talky is a little different to most messaging tools in that it is, primarily, a web-based service. There is an iOS app available, but if you're looking for a true cross-platform chatting tool you are going to have to look elsewhere.
You can have a group video chat with up to 15 participants, making Talky great not only for family and friends, but also for collaborative working. With this in mind, it is also possible to activate screen sharing so everyone involved in a conversation can see what's happening on one person's display.
Creating a chat room is incredibly simple – just head to the Talky website, type the URL you'd like to use, and you're ready to go. All that remains is to share the URL with people you want to chat with; to keep things private, rooms can be password-protected. There's no getting away from the fact that Talky is a little light on features, but sometimes simple is what's needed.
Web, desktop and mobile chat, plus an unusual People Nearby feature
WeChat is mainly a mobile app – it's available for iOS, Windows Phone and Android – but there's also the option of using the web-based version of the service for desktop users who want to get in on the action. That said, it's worth pointing out that a mobile phone is needed to log into the web version of WeChat – an unnecessarily convoluted process that many people will find off-putting. There is also a Windows 10 app in the Microsoft Store, and a version for macOS in the App Store.
Once you're up and running, WeChat offers voice, text, video and group chats, and it can be used to replace your existing SMS and phone apps. It is possible to make calls to landlines and mobiles in some countries, but not worldwide. WeChat also veers into social networking territory by enabling you to meet new people with its People Nearby feature.
- Need something more professional? We've featured the best video conferencing.