Some time ago I took a long, hard look on "Skype alternatives". Let me share my finds with all of you:
Skype is Shit. Let me repeat that: Skype is Shit, and this Shit that Skype is mostly became shit after Microsoft messed with it. Allow me to elaborate:
- Call quality auto-degrades, when Skype 'decides' you are not to be prioritized. No other option given to the user to prioritize or adjust it in any way; useful settings to manage call parameters are virtually non-existent;
- Land line connectivity is poor, with low success rates (try it for yourselves: try calling from your regular phone the line you just failed to get a connection, and see how quick and crisp the result is);
- Privacy is a joke, even the links one pastes in Skype's chat interface trigger Microsoft spider bots that show up to check on the link shared. Again, try this for yourself and see what happens. I would not be surprised if the infamous Facebook policy is applied (the one that saves not just what you post, but what you type in the textboxes, even if you hit Backspace);
- The super useful desktop sharing function was made a PREMIUM service. That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me.
- Over the years, and version after version, the ads have become audaciously overwhelming. The current image of Skype's window on your desktop crammed with its glam and glitter ads is plain silly. Grandma (for whom most of us maintain Skype) is having a hard time figuring out where to click to bring up which window that may or may not have the big green button she is looking for.
- Dodgy background processes and connections doing dodgy things. Again, be my guest and check for yourselves. Try your everyday sysadmin tools and see what you get.
>> Skype works on any Windows/MacOS computer, virtually any iOS
I will challenge that: depends what you mean by "works". For example, it does not work on my Mac. And by "does not work" I mean that a not-so-old version will fail to connect. "Have you tried the new version?", you may ask. No thanks, I decided against it after reading the EULA. Again, try it; it was an insightful read for me. Clearly there was lots of effort put into writing it, so why not do them a favour and read it? Note that the juice here is not my predicament and my ideas of what 'this software works' means, but Microsoft's choice to piss on their users and cripple earlier versions in order to extort upgrades.
>> A better comparison would be Google Hangouts
I understand this, but really, it boils down to whether you believe that you are getting a good deal or not from Google (or anyone) for your person. If you go this way, you would be an utter fool if you expect any kind of privacy on your otherwise designated 'private' communications. Google will keep recordings of your sessions at least until a biblical proportion flood or a meteor impact event physically destroys its data centres. Until then, Google (or whoever is in their shoes at the time) will ever-analyze and dissect your data, with current and ever-developing algorithms and resources: that's what Google DOES in its core.
A very simple to set up a convenient videoconf scheme is to use something o p e n s o u r c e (say Jitsi), and use it to handle an o p e n (say XMPP) protocol. Set one up for grandma as well, show her where the green button is, and videochat with her with strong end-to-end encryption, keeping those magick cookie formulae of hers only between her and you. You taught grandma Skype, you can teach grandma this one as well. Grandma knows.
Make sure you at least give your friends and associates a chance to break out of this Skype/Hangout trap that we tech-informed people have totally set up for ourselves, stop using the ".. but everybody uses Skype
If you go the extra mile and pay the excruciating amount of $10 to some third telephony party, you can also integrate them via SIP and have the ability to place numerous calls to landlines and cells. Again, numerous small companies, numerous plans for diverse budgets.
Overall, why ever prefer a 'blackbox' type software, for something you can do with opensource? Because the blackbox "just works", "works better", "has guarantees" and the like, that's why: only that this is not the case with Skype and Google, since simple opensource buggy XMPP-handling programs at their first buggy steps already perform better than the establishment.