Practical Technology

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Beyond Skype: VoIP Alternatives

Did Skype’s total failure last holiday season get you worried? Are you tired of Skype’s generally poor quality even at its free price-tag? Afraid of what Microsoft might do with Skype? According to ZDNet’s own unscientific survey, 41% of you are less likely to use MS-Skype.

So, what can you use instead of Skype? Here’s my own personal list of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video-conferencing favorites. I’ve used all of these at one time or another and I was happy with the results. I also continue to use two of these programs.

What the programs I like all have in common is that they use open-protocols. These are SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). This means if you have SIP or XMPP client you can use it to talk to anyone using a compatible client; if that is, they’re on the same VoIP network.

For example, Iptel, Ekiga.net, and ippi are all fine SIP networks, but if you’re only on one of them you can’t talk to other SIP VoIP users on the other two and vice-versa. The same is true of XMPP/Jingle networks, and, for that matter all the other VoIP networks.

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