Skype has always been proprietary so those that prefer to use only Open Source have relied upon free alternatives. Now with Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, Linux users are already predicting the end for them and are looking for alternatives as well. It turns out that the Free Software Foundation has had “Free software replacement for Skype” on their High-Priority List for a while.
The FSF suggests that folks use one of the free programs available for Linux and help development by sending in bug reports. They cite China’s spying on Skype conversations as a good reason. Does anyone doubt Microsoft is capable of similar? So, even if Microsoft doesn’t give Linux (and Mac) users the kibosh, I wouldn’t trust them and proprietary software with my phone calls.
Quite an extensive list of alternatives is already compiled at the FSF, some of which I’d never heard of before. But several bring a familiar ring – if you’ll pardon the pun.
1. Linphone – Linphone is an internet phone or VoIP much like Skype. It seems the page at the FSF needs a bit of updating, because Linphone 3.4.0 was released in February 2011. The news page states that “the main point of this new release is support for multiple simultaneous calls, with pause, resume and transfer functionality.” It is released under the GNU GPL v2 license and commercial support is available as well. It comes in binaries for Debian-based distros or build from source. Here’s a screenshot from the Linphone Website:
2. Ekiga – Ekiga was formerly known as GnomeMeeting, which many have heard of. GnomeMeeting used to come with lots of distributions and Ekiga is still seen in several. So, check your distribution’s repos. It provides “SoftPhone, Video Conferencing and Instant Messenger application[s] over the Internet” and supports SIP and H.323. Ekiga is released under the GPL and comes in binaries for lots of distros and in source code. Again, scarfed screenshot from Ekiga Website:
3. Empathy – “Empathy is a messaging program which supports text, voice, and video chat and file transfers over many different protocols.” This one is probably most well known because of its inclusion in Ubuntu. 3.1 was released May 9. It is released under the GPL and comes in binaries for Ubuntu. Looks like others will have to build it from source. Again, shamelessly stolen screenshot: