Sure, Skype is everyone’s go-to, but there are other services out there that work just as well.
Like Google, Skype has become a verb. You don’t “look something up on an internet search engine” — you google it. You don’t video-chat with someone — you skype them. The ability to google and skype have become important parts of daily life. For many cam models, skyping is an essential tool for success.
In some circles, the Skype platform is considered the gold standard for video chatting. It’s inexpensive (free to go cam-to-cam with a fellow Skype user), it works well across all types of devices, and it has lots of great features. More than 300 million people use Skype, which is another benefit.
But Skype also has some pretty involved and vague terms of service, including a “Code of Conduct.” By agreeing to Skype’s terms of service, you’re agreeing to refrain from illegal activity (fine), not to harm or exploit yourself or others (fine), not to send spam (wait — what?), and not to engage in activity that’s false or misleading (again — what?), among several other things. Full terms of service are here.
Who’s to say what’s spam? And who’s to say what’s “misleading”? And, come to think about it, legality varies from place to place — sometimes by a lot!
If you violate Skype’s terms, even if you didn’t actually violate them, Skype can suspend or close your account and block delivery of your emails and instant messages. If you’ve spent time building your presence on Skype, this can be disastrous.
If you’ve already had a falling out with Skype or if you just want to have some alternates on hand in the event of a video-chat-network catastrophe, here are a few other platforms you can use to skype with friends, fans, and clients.
Viber is all about generating good vibes, brah, via calls, video chat, texting, and picture sharing over 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi connections. Viber can be used on smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android and on Windows and Mac desktops and laptops. Services are free between Viber users, but a fee is charged for calling domestic and international lines outside the app, which is the same way Skype works.
Through Viber Out — Viber’s pay service that you have to sign up for to call outside the platform — users can call any number as long as they’ve bought credits. The fees can always be worked into the price of your show, though.
In many ways, Google Voice is the most obvious “answer” to a Skype purge. Like we said, google is verb too — it’s that ubiquitous. Google Voice gives you a single number to use across your phone, tablet, and/or computer. You can use it to call international or conference lines, block unwanted callers, and receive calls at home, at work, or on your mobile phone, depending on who is calling and when. Google Voice also transcribes messages for you if you miss a call.
Google Voice is simple to use. You just open the app on your phone or log into your Google account on another device. And, Google Voice is now fully integrated with Google Hangouts, which is where you get the video chat component with this platform.
In addition to having a super-cool name, VoxOx offers services comparable to Google Voice — a free, U.S.-based phone number that can be used to call or text across devices. Even if you are not based in the U.S., you still can have a presence that suggests you are, which might be very useful for some people. You also get the standard video messaging, voice calls, and IM capabilities. Calls between VoxOx users are free, but calls to non-users cost one cent per minute in the U.S. Rates vary for other countries.
WeChat‘s free messaging service includes phone calls, video-chat, instant messages, and standard voice and text messaging. It works on the desktop or mobile phone via Wi-Fi or using your data plan. (Always pay attention to your data plan with these things!)
The platform supports iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Symbian. In addition to standard downloading, you can scan a QR code to get the app on your smartphone, which is fun. WeChat also has the ability to add other users via Shake, which is even funner. By shaking your phone, you can find other people who are also “shaking” and send them greetings. The app uses geo-location to find people to greet nearby. Obviously, anything regarding geo-locations needs to be used mindfully in cam.
Like Viber and Viber Out, WeChat has WeChat Out. This allows you to make international calls (for a fee, which you can always build into your rate). Currently, WeChat Out is available in the U.S., Hong Kong, and India, with plans to expand in the future.
Every platform is entitled to its terms of service, and chances are Viber, WeChat, and countless other Skype-like apps have rules and regulations that are just as fickle and vague. But it’s good to know there are alternatives if need you need them. Who knows? You may find yourself in a small pond (read: less competition) via one of these other platforms.
Just remember to be savvy, and you should be good to go!