Skype alternatives

On: October 13, 2007
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About Laura van der Vlies
Laura van der Vlies is currently a New Media master student at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing the New Media bachelor program and finishing the propedeuse year CMD at the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, this is the year to finally really learn the inside of new media today. This summer I participated in the Digital Methods Initiative. This really made me learn to use knowledge in a different way. With interests in the topic of journalism on the web and certain forms of censorship I hope to make valuable contributions to this blog.


One of the great things about web 2.0 is making free phone calls to friends all over the world. Just turn on one of the programs that offer this service, make sure your friend is online too, and make the call. And it’s also possible to call for a lot less the amount that you used to, to a regular phone or mobile phone.
According to my own preferences I really like to use Skype. It’s easy, free, and almost all my friends use it too. But after some articles I read about Skype having a backdoor and not being all that safe, I decided to look for an alternative to call and talk with my friends for free. To my surprise there are loads of other programs out there that offer the same service.

Some examples:
Gizmo project
Google talk

And on a rainy afternoon, I decided to just try some of them, to find out what’s the difference, and more important, which one is a good alternative for Skype?

* VoIPbuster: Their slogan sounds promising: If you like Skype, you will love the Voipbuster. As a Mac user I’m redirected to another page to download the program, Windows users are probably their most common users. The website is in Dutch, with some English explainations on it. Looking at the website the Voipbuster all of a sudden doesn’t sound so promising anymore. But don’t judge the book by its cover. After making an account you are redirected to the page to buy ‘credits’. So this isn’t a free service! Or is it? The website is really messy and it is even not clear how to download the program for Mac users. I have an account now but no program. After five minutes of going through the site I decided this isn’t my program for sure.

* Gizmo Project: Getting started is really easy. Just download the program and register. The program itself looks a lot like Skype again. A messenger service with group chat, easy to call people and not really something new. But according to the website there is a lot more to explore with Gizmo that i haven’t seen yet. Call recordings, map of the location of the caller and sound effects. It looks promising but I’m not convinced. It looks like a lot of extras that are unnecessary. Nice but not for me.
Gizmo interface


* Jajah: When you first enter the site it looks like you only have to fill in two telephone numbers and you can call right away. Maybe that’s the case, but only when you have a landline, which I don’t. So, I have to find another way to use Jajah. After viewing the demo and clicking around I found out this isn’t really such a good service. It’s only free when you use a landline and your friend is a Jajah user too. Otherwise you have to pay. And it’s not cheaper than using your regular phone. When I call with my mobile via Jajah to another mobile number in the Netherlands, it still costs me 29.6 cents. So Jajah,…. Nonoh!

* WengoPhone: Opensource software to make free pc to pc video and voice calls. The software is really easy to download and install afterwards. The interface looks almost exactly like Skype. It also has an option to send sms messages. Unfortunately I couldn’t test the application because there is not an option for a try-out call and I have no contacts yet. So far this seems like a good alternative for Skype.

* SightSpeed: The application took very long to download.
sightspeedAnd no, that wasn’t my connection. After the installation you have to change some settings and than the program is ready to use. The program doesn’t look so flashy like Skype. But it works really well. There is even an option to record video mails and messages to put on your blog. When you make a call you can record the call. The only disadvantages are the advertisements during a call and the fact that there isn’t an option to chat. But for making just phone calls this is my favorite! But now I have to convince other people to use the program too.

After trying five I quit. Sightspeed is really nice, but not a lot of people use the program. So either way I have to convince people to start using the program or just stick with the old one. Skype may have a backdoor, it’s still the most userfriendly way to call other people over the internet.

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