Communication is absolutely vital to businesses and consumers, particularly in the always-on world that we inhabit. Increasingly, it is digital communication tools that enable us to stay connected and Skype is one of the most popular across the globe.
With an estimated 300 million users, Skype has enabled family members to remain in touch, long-distance relationships to endure and businesses to strengthen global ties, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the go-to video messaging app for you. There are a number of alternatives to Skype that offer great features in their own right and we’ve listed five of the best below.
Like Skype, Viber is free and offers a comprehensive range of features, leading many commentators to claim that it now the best video messaging service out there. It works across a range of operating systems including Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Windows 10 and Mac and has video and audio calls available, as well as IM capabilities. It is slightly frustrating that the Viber app needs to be open in order to receive a call (so you may need to inform the recipient that you are going to call them via another messaging service), but that hasn’t stopped the service from gaining a significant fanbase.
Hailing from China, WeChat is already hugely popular in its native country and is now poised to grow its userbase internationally. Aiming to combine text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Skype into one app, WeChat is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for all your communication needs. Voice chat, video chat, group chat and emoticon sharing are all available alongside some more unique features. Shake, for example, lets users find others nearby to chat with and Drift Bottle allows you to “float” a message until someone finds it.
By combining Google Voice and Google Chat, Hangouts has serious potential to threaten Skype’s position as the dominant video messaging service. Businesses, in particular, may find the video conferencing options useful, with support for up to 10 individuals and the option of automatically switching to the person talking, whilst muting other participants. Hangouts hasn’t gained as much traction as Google would have liked, particularly amongst mobile devices, but the service still has a lot to offer.
ICQ may be the elder statesman of the digital communication world – it launched in 1996 – but it’s not ready to be put out to pasture just yet. It comes with free instant messaging and one-click video calls, as well as the ability to share messages over supported social media accounts. Users are also given a unique identification number, which makes it a good choice if you do not want to share your real identity or email address with those you are chatting with. It doesn’t have the most aesthetically pleasing user interface, but it does have everything you need from a messaging service.
Firefox is useful for more than just browsing the web and with the right add-ons it can become a genuine Skype replacement. There are various VoIP add-ons that can be downloaded that enable you to call numbers embedded into webpages. You may find that several of these offer cheaper rates than Skype and the convenience of making calls without having to leave the website. The Firefox Hello feature also offers a simple way of making video calls without having to download additional software.