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I'm looking for an alternative to Skype which I can use to communicate between Linux computers as well as Android. While Skype is basically being available for both systems, I prefer something more open (see requirements below). It doesn't have to be the same application on both systems, so "Talk-X" on Linux and "Talk-Z" on Android are fine as long as they can communicate with each other.

Requirements

  • Must-Have:
    • text conversations (chat)
    • file exchange
  • Strongly preferred:
    • open source (FOSS)
    • audio chat
    • video chat
    • intuitive GUI
    • not requiring a closed-source 3rd-party-service to interact (alternatives: peer-to-peer, or running on own hardware) for "general use"
    • encryption support
    • "receiving" messages while being offline (i.e. they get delivered as soon as going online; this might work either via the "intermediate server" or with the "sender" buffering it (as p2p wouldn't involve any intermediary)
    • indicating online status (online, offline, busy) to be triggered manually
  • Nice-to-Have:
    • really good, user-friendly, and intuitive GUI that "my grandma could use" (not to be confused with "fancy and overloaded Hello-Kitty-GUI my grand-child would like" ;)
    • SIP support
    • editing of messages already sent
    • search in communication history
    • additional status indicators (e.g. "not available", "brb"), triggering manually or automatically (e.g. "when not interacting with the computer for X minutes")
  • Doesn't hurt, but not really required:
    • multi-user-chat
    • inter-operability with other services (e.g. Skype) – if needed, via their servers of course

Reasons speaking against Skype for me

To make the background a little more clear, what are the reasons I'm looking for an alternative?

  • Linux version is always ways behind, and not really what I'd expect from it
  • while it somehow works, it usually requires me using some third-party-repo to get it installed at all, while...
  • it's proprietary and, moreover, coming from a company I don't really trust
  • the Android version is not reliable (e.g. I've created a test user on a test device, and shut the entire device down 2 months ago – the user still shows in my buddy-list as up being online)

Related questions

I know there are already several questions on Skype replacements. However, none in the context I require (Linux + Android). I will link them here specifically for one reason: it might well be they name one component (e.g. the Linux client) where someone might know a counterpart (Linux client) it can work together with:

What your answers should contain?

You don't necessarily need to have deep knowledge for both parts. If you e.g. can recommend an Android application of which you know it works with Linux-counterparts X, Y, and maybe Z (or the other way around), your answer could be combined with that of one who knows X, Y, or Z and describes that, linking to your question for "the other half".

  • The third linked question has an answer that mentions Tox. The homepage lists many of the features in your criteria. It even has [two Android conterparts[(wiki.tox.im/Binaries#Clients_.28Mobile.29). Why doesn't it fit? – Tymric Sep 24 '14 at 15:15
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    @Timmy for multiple reasons: It's not done yet being the most important :) From your link I take it they just forgot to update the FAQ? If so, and it matches the requirements: Be welcome to post an answer, as what I've read so far sounds quite promising! The answer you've linked unfortunately is not much more than a link itself ("I saw it - didn't try it - look there") – and you know, an answer should include more ;) – Izzy Sep 24 '14 at 15:25
  • True, it is not done yet, but the dev builds are available. So it's best to wait until someone else posts an answer an alternative – Tymric Sep 24 '14 at 15:35
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    Also see Disclaimer & Explanation (last edited 2014-08-24): Tox is by no means complete … is an alpha program (emphasis mine). I'm looking for something I can use – and an "alpha" is a little too early a stage for that usually. Nevertheless: if you've got personal experiences with it, a good answer deserves upvotes and definitely helps future "searchers". As said: As soon as it's stable, it looks like a perfect match! – Izzy Sep 24 '14 at 15:37
4

Linphone here springs to mind: https://www.linphone.org/

I've not used this for many years, but I'm aware it has an Android app (and works with Windows, iOS and Mac). It's released under the GPL so it's free and open source. You can use your own SIP or sign up for a free account on the Linphone website. It will interact with any SIP protocol I believe, but will not work with Skype's proprietary service. It supports file transfers.

Oh, and it's end-to-end encrypted by default.

Edit / Additional:

Just to confirm, it's on Linux (and Unix) too. Just installed it, GUI looks nice and simple (quite GNOMEy). So sudo aptitude install linphone or sudo yum install linphone should work - seems to be in the repos.

Requested Edits / Additional:

Only thing I can see which isn't on your requirements list:

  • Editing of sent messages (not sure if that's possible over SIP, but don't hold me to that)

I'm not sure on the offline messages (everyone I know won't listen to me and insists on using Skype, so no contacts to test!)

Version in Fedora's repo is 3.6.1, which is a sub-version below the code available from Linphone directly (3.7 currently).

  • Oh, and if your Ubuntu version doesn't have the latest, there's a PPA on launchpad you could add: launchpad.net/~linphone/+archive/ubuntu/release – Elliot Reed Sep 24 '14 at 15:58
  • Wow. Maybe it doesn't "look that nice", but there are several more "pros" you might wish to include with your answer: It's open-source (you wrote that), Android version even available on F-Droid. Supports all major OS (Linux, Mac, Windows, iOS, WP8). Version in Ubuntu 12.04 repo still 3.3.2, but PPA has 3.7.0 for Precise as well :) Will sure give it another try soon, thanks a lot for bringing it up! – Izzy Sep 25 '14 at 7:54
  • PS: Works pretty nice on Android, though it has some (known) issues. Devs respond fast, but they have to live on something – so issues affecting a minority only won't have priority (like the STUN server being defined globally, so I cannot use my public SIP account (requires STUN) and my local home "DECT-SIP" (must have NO STUN) at the same time). At least they are open, responsive, and try to help. And the "not look that nice" is pretty relative (was based on older screenshots actually ;) Next I need to see to get it running on my PCs … – Izzy Oct 29 '14 at 12:47
  • @Izzy: please correct me if i'm wrong but messages and file-transfer isn't encrypted end-to-end, just transport-encryption via TLS is used! - only voice (and video) is end-to-end encrypted via ZRTP/SRTP. – DJCrashdummy Oct 26 '16 at 11:13
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    @DJCrashdummy Not sure, I only use it for voice calls when abroad :) Apart from that, end-to-end encryption was not part of the "hard requirements". According to Prism-Break, you are correct – according to the Linphone wiki you are not. Looks they've just implemented that this year. – Izzy Oct 26 '16 at 11:24
3

Another reason to switch away from Skype is that they are owned by Microsoft and have been shown by the Snowden leaks simply to give data from Skype conversations to the NSA, including recorded calls.

For an excellent and more private alternative to Skype try Jitsi Meet. It is open source, conversations are end-to-end encrypted (not like Skype) and it is available directly through a WebRTC enabled browser (e.g. Vivaldi, or another Chromium derivative), or Firefox in its default setup. That means you don't have to install anything to use it. You go to the website, you choose a link that is generated for you, and you share this link with the person you would like to connect to. Couldn't be easier.

Chat and file-sharing is available. Also available is the ability to share YouTube videos, work on a shared text document, screen sharing and password protecting the link to your conversation. You can also talk with multiple people at the same time.

I have tested Jitsi Meet for hours on transatlantic calls and it has worked great. Stable, good video quality and the features all work. And it doesn't give my personal information away to third parties for data mining.

  • Thanks, Jitsi sounds good – especially in the context that I already use Conversations (XMPP, E2E encrypted via OTR or OMEMO – but no voice/videocall feature yet) on one of my Android devices meanwhile. But as for the WebRTC part: I've just followed the link, and see calls are intercepted (cloudfront.net). I'd rather avoid that part. But even after permitting that, in Firefox I just see an empty gray page. +1 still for bringing it up! I could still use it's native packages on desktop – at least when they implement OMEMO (currently in queue). Until then, rather Gajim :) – Izzy Dec 14 '16 at 10:39
2

Not a full match, but I've just found Ring:

  • Must haves:
    • text conversations: Yes
    • file exchange: Unsure (probably yes in SIP mode)
  • Strongly preferred:
    • Open Source: Yes
    • audio/video chat: Yes, yes
    • intuitive GUI: Cannot really tell as I've not tried – but the screenshots I've seen suggest so
    • no closed-source 3rd party parts: Not as far as I can tell
    • encryption support: Yes
    • "receiving" messages while being offline: might depend on protocol used (see below)
    • indicating online status (online, offline, busy) to be triggered manually: Could not yet figure out whether it's shown at all
  • Nice to have:
    • really easy GUI: See above
    • SIP support: Yes (see below)
    • editing of messages already sent: Not yet tried
    • search in communication history: Not yet tried
    • additional status indicators: see above (any at all?)
  • Doesn't hurt:
    • multi-user-chat: Yes ("conferences")
    • inter-operability with other services: if those support SIP, yes.

Ring RingUbuntu
Ring (sources: TechRepublic, ProLinux.DE; click images for larger variants)

Ring is available for Android, Linux (KDE/Gnome), Mac and Windows. It supports SIP (federalized concept: everyone can setup a server – as opposed to centralized, where you must use the provider's server, as e.g. Skype is) as well as decentralized communication (peer-to-peer).

Further readings:

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