Skype jumps the shark: Seven alternative VoIP services

Skype jumps the shark: Seven alternative VoIP services

Summary: Microsoft is adding advertising to its voice over IP (VoIP) service Skype. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives that don't stick an ad in your face while you're talking.

TOPICS: Google
Do you really want to have Skype shoving ads in your face while you are talking?

Do you really want to have Skype shoving ads in your face while you're talking!?

Hundreds of millions of people use Skype for its free voice over IP (VoIP) services every day. Indeed, Skype claims that in March 2012, 35-million people were all talking at the same time on the service. But, how many of them are going to stick with it when Microsoft, Skype's owner, sticks ads in your face?

Microsoft announced that "While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about." Oh yeah, I always like having an ad pop-up when I'm talking to a friend or co-worker.

These ads, which will use your location, age and sex to better target you, will appear on Skype for Windows if you don't have any Skype Credit or a Skype subscriptions while you're making 1:1 Skype-to-Skype audio calls. I'm sure it will also appear on the Mac version of well. For once, the neglect Skype has long given Linux will pay off for Linux users. Skype for Linux, which is still on version 2.2 beta while Windows is up to 5.8, isn't likely to get this "upgrade."

Microsoft has planning this for a while. In theory, not longer after Microsoft bought Skype, Skype was to get online advertising with version of 5.6 in September 2011 As far as I can tell though no such ads were ever placed.

I've never liked Skype that much. Yes, it's very popular, but it was always horribly out-dated on Linux and both its technology and security were, and still is, lousy.

Force of habit has kept people on Skype. With pop-up ads soon appearing during conversations, I think people will finally find themselves looking for another VoIP and video-conferencing service. There are my personal favorites:

Cisco TelePresence:

Remember the TV show 24? Remember the really cool video-conferencing setup? That's Cisco TelePresence. If you want serious business replacement for Skype you want Cisco TelePresence. Free? Heck no! Cheap, not really. But, TelePresence is really, really good.

All the other services I'm going to mention don't have Telepresence's bells and whistles. On the other hand, they're either free or so close to being free as to make no difference.


Ekiga, formerly GnomeMeeting, is the best known Linux VoIP clients. It's also available on Windows. On either platform it works well. It's a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard a client, but it also supports the H.323 video-conferencing protocol. With H.323, you can use Ekiga with the older Microsoft NetMeeting and other SIP compatible conferencing program. I've found that to be a very handy feature over the years. Unfortunately, when Microsoft "upgraded" NetMeeting to Windows Meeting Space with Vista, they also broke its compatibility with Ekiga and other third-party programs. Still, if your colleagues are on Linux or XP, you're good to go.


If only FaceTime ran on more than just Macs and the rest of Apple's family, I'd like it a lot more. Even so, it's good, it's very, very good. True, it's not free, but at a price of 99 cents for the FaceTime client, it's not going to break anyone's bank.

What I find most annoying about FaceTime is that it could work with SIP-based programs such as Ekiga. Apple, as usual, chose to lock it down with proprietary extensions. Darn it!

Google Voice:

Why use just a VoIP service, when you can replace all your phone needs with Google Voice? In a series of ZDNet articles David Gewirtz gives a complete how to for replacing your land line with Google Voice. As Gewirtz also wrote, you can also use Google Voice on your iPhone and other mobile phones.

OK, say you don't want to go that far; there are other excellent free alternatives from Google.

Google Talk:

Google makes a thing a wee bit confusing when it comes to their communications offerings. Besides Google Voice, which is a personal private-branch exchange (PBX) when you get down to brass tacks, there's Google Chat, which is Google's IM service, and Google Talk, which is its VoIP and video service.

Unlike Skype, there's no client as such, except for Windows, for these services. Instead, Linux and Mac users need to install a Google Talk video and voice plug-in to their Web browsers. Once you have the plug-in though you can use the services from many Google pages. For example, I use it all the time from Gmail and Google Plus.

Speaking of Google Plus, there's also:

Google Hangouts:

These are free video-conferences with up to nine people. You can also now broadcast or record these conferences for a world-wide audience. You can also do what I do sometimes and just use them as a quick way to have a one-on-one conversation. This is also a service you run directly from a Web browser. There's no need to download a client.


OOvoo is a combination VoIP, video-conferencing, and IM program that I like quite a lot even if it doesn't run on Linux. You can, however, run it on many Android phones, iPhones and iPod Touch devices, and Mac and Windows PCs. I also have to say that in my experience ooVoo delivers the best audio and video quality of all the free VoIP programs I've used. If you want a really good connection for cheap, you really want ooVoo.

You want to know what's the best thing about all these programs though? Well, besides being technically better and more secure? Not one of them shoves an ad in my face when I'm talking to a buddy. Check them out. Tell your friends about them. You may just be fine that you'll never, ever need to see a Skype ad.

Related Stories:

Microsoft's Skype for Windows: Now with 'conversation ads'

Skype leaking user IP addresses, TCP ports

Skype knew about IP address security flaw back in 2010

Skype + Facebook = critical security vulnerability

Microsoft's Ballmer $7.7-Billion Skype Blunder

Topic: Google

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  • Its kind of hypocritical that while mentioning ad free alternatives ...

    to Skype, you list 3 Google Services !!!!

    EDIT: Ooovoo is not ad free either.

    SJVN, please do some basic research before writing. Ooovoo premium details were a click away on their website.
    • Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' writing jumped the shark two years ago

      that kind of story is all he has left, I fear. What is sad to see is a technology writer harboring such hatered for Microsoft, that he will actually recommend technically inferior products to his readers.

      Though before Microsoft purchased Skype, he never once claimed or mentioned it to be inferior, nor less secure, then anything else. That was only added once Microsoft made the purchase.
      John Zern
      • I am with Steven

        I was considering Skype until it was purchased by Microsoft.
        To show how I feel - I have been using Ubuntu OS for some years,but after my computer gave prolonged problem with emails
        I purchased an Apple iMac.

      • Nod - understandable.

        "I was considering Skype until it was purchased by Microsoft.
        To show how I feel - I have been using Ubuntu OS for some years"

        So in other words, you don't care whether a solution works well, as long as that solution is now owned by Microsoft. Good to hear you made a pragmatic rather than political decision with your own computing needs.
      • daftkey, it's fine if elderlybloke feels that way

        at least he's being upfront as to why, as where SJVN just pretends to be upfront.
        Many people will absolutely never buy an Apple product because of Apple's business ethics (or lack of) so that's fine.

        At the end of the day you have to do what you feel is right, as long as you only hurt yourself in the end if the choice is wrong.

        Now if he was advocating that his entire business should cripple themselve because he doesn't like the fact that MS owns Skype, then that's a problem. That's why so many take exception to SJVN's "opinions".
        William Farrel
      • well put

        I find most of Steven's articles Anti-MS. It's as if they stole his lolly-pop and now he's mad.

        Steven, everything is ad based on the internet. You can't escape it for long because once a product builds a decent user base they introduce ads to it.
    • Don't forget that he extolls the virtues of Googles ads

      He constantly posts that ads in Google products are good because they make the product [b]free[/b] and free is good. The nearest that I can tell is that SJVN is still bitter about Windows Vista was more popular than all Linux Desktops distributions combined.
      Your Non Advocate
    • ad-free vs. in call ad-free

      The reason skype ads are a bad thing is because they are to displayed during a call, interrupting your reason for calling a person in the first place. The google services he listed don't interrupt your calls with ads. Instead, the ads are displayed away from the actual call. They're displayed tastefully, off to the side where if you want to look, there they are. These "conversation ads" are like a large centerpiece. In order to have a conversation, first you must cope with it.
      • Didn't highlight it

        SJVN didn't exactly highlight it but he did say that the ads would be displayed during 1:1 AUDIO calls. Where, exactly, is said interruption of the call? It isn't like it is popping up over a live video call. GAFB.
  • You have got to be kidding

    Complaining about MS offering free services with ads. Lucky we have all those Google services without ads - oh wait...

    Looks like SJVN is back on his MS witch hunt again. It actually proves that there is so little to write about Linux, that he's reduced to his usual hate war against MS.
    • Google Voice EULA ....

      In a nutshell: Google has the right to record your calls at any time and use the recording which ever way it pleases them.
      • Wow...

        The crap in here is getting deep. I don't particularly appreciate the authors blatant anti-Microsoft bias, but this claim is a blatant lie. It's a shame when the religiosity of IT causes otherwise normal people sound like nuts.
      • how about skype?

        and what does the skype eula say?
      • Google Voice does use your recordings to improve its speech recogntion

        Actually, his statements are factually true. Google uses your voice mail to feed its speech recognition engine, among other use cases. It is covered in the EULA.
        Your Non Advocate
      • Apparently somebody is too dumb ....

        ... to actually read the EULA.

        My statements are backed BY THE TRUTH ... while somebody's are backed by self-imposed ignorance and fanboy stupidity.
    • correction

      He didn't complain that Skype has ads. That's a given on the internet. If it's free, it will have advertisements.
      What he did complain about is the implementation of those ads. When the service being provided is interrupted to a degree by the advertisements which make it free, that makes the service less useable. In this case, that's what will be happening.
      I use Adblock Plus in Firefox for the same reason, useability issues due to ads. There are quite a number of websites with advertisements that are so disruptive, without an ad-blocker, they'd make the service un-useable. That's where Google shines, keeping ads visable without making them disruptive. That's why I agree, use the Google services above Skype, at least when I see ads there, I can continue my conversation without getting annoyed.
      • How it the service being interrupted

        The ads will be displayed during 1:1 AUDIO calls, not video calls. There is no interruption.
  • There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

    You are going to pay for it one way or another. You going pay by getting ads shoved at you or you going have to pony up for an ad free subscription.

    It why I have a problem with "free" services. Pay to play is better.
    • Learn to ignore advertising

      People have tolerated ???free??? TV ads for decades. Then came ???Pay-TV??? which was ad free for about 2 minutes and then its operators decided to make more money by putting ads on it. There never used to the ads in any movie theater, because the owners were happy with getting paid by moviegoers. Now, besides getting paid at the box office and the refreshment stand, they are also making extra money by advertising on the screen. Nowadays many sheep will pay for what used to be free and be served ads anyway. One would think that in all that time, people would have honed the fine art of ignoring ads on whatever service they appear.
      • Tolerant for a reason

        Because the ads are not shown during the TV show where as internet ads flash, make noises and really are a hung pain in the ass. kinda like getting flashed in the eyes with a flash light while trying to read. And they can be dangerous with criminals hacking ad networks. Thank god for ad blockers or i would have left the internet years ago