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What's not to like about Skype? It's free and ad-free and offers clear VoIP calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world.
Written by Matthew Elliott, Contributor

What's not to like about Skype? It's free and ad-free and offers clear VoIP calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world.

Aren't ready to give up your trusted phone line, but still want to make free calls over the Internet? Then give Skype a try — a peer-to-peer program from the makers of Kazaa that lets you talk to other Skype users using VoIP. It couldn't be easier to use, the calls are clear and the best part is, it's free.

The software is as easy to use as any instant messenger and lets you make free calls over the Internet using your desktop, notebook or handheld. All you need is a USB headset (or a microphone and speakers) to make and receive calls. You'll also need to get your friends to download Skype; like an instant messenger, calls can be made only between Skype users. The software is so easy to set up and use, however, that you shouldn't have a hard time selling them on Skype. Unlike FreeWorld Dialup, Skype is an integrated solution that combines service and software, resulting in unparalleled ease of use.

After a quick download (the software is currently a beta version), you'll soon discover that Skype looks more like an IM client than a softphone. You sign up with a username rather than a phone number. There's no number pad; instead, you dial other Skype users by searching for their username or by clicking a name on a list of contacts. There's even an IM option, should you prefer typing to talking, and a conference-call function that lets you converse with up to four other people at once. A separate download, PocketSkype, gives a Pocket PC-based, Wi-Fi-enabled handheld the ability to act as an IM and make calls from any Wi-Fi hot spot.

Call quality was very good in our trials; conversations between ZDNet editors in New York and San Francisco were crystal clear. There was only the slightest evidence of latency, but not nearly enough to interrupt the flow of the conversation. Impressive, too, is the fact that we had no trouble getting through our firewall for calls to Skype users outside our corporate network. Considering that the software is free, we were also surprised to find that it's ad-free.

There is currently no support for Macs, but that hasn't stopped more than 15 million people from signing up for Skype. If you constantly find yourself sending instant messages or you'd just like to cut down on your long-distance bill, especially for international calls, be sure to check out Skype.

Company:  Skype Technologies
Price: Free

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