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You are here: Home Blogs Community Two new projects can help free software replace Skype

Two new projects can help free software replace Skype

by brett Contributions Published on Jun 08, 2011 05:49 PM
GNU Free Call and WebRTC are both building frameworks that stand to make Skype obsolete.

Skype has been in the news a lot lately: Microsoft agreed to buy the company, their network has gone down twice recently, and they're threatening to take unspecified action against developers who try to write free software to make calls on their system. This all merely adds insult to injury; the software has always been nonfree, and that's why a free software replacement for Skype has been on our High Priority Projects list since October 2008. Lots of people use software like Ekiga and Twinkle to make simple VoIP calls, but they're still missing some features, and that prevents people from making the switch to using free software. Thankfully, a couple of new projects aim to close this gap, and both have made some promising progress over the last month.

GNU Free Call wants to help people easily connect with each other without relying on any one centralized network. To do that, they're creating a peer-to-peer calling network, along with client software for traditional desktop computers and mobile devices. The project recently released stable call server software, GNU SIP Witch 1.0, and now the team is beginning to focus its efforts on building the client software.

WebRTC is coordinating an effort to let people call each other and hold videoconferences just by visiting a Web site. If they're successful, Web developers will be able to add these features to their sites just by using some relatively simple JavaScript code. Even better, the audio and video codecs WebRTC uses have free software implementations, and come with patent licenses that offer legal protection to users and developers. This project is still in its early stages; right now, the effort is focused on adding the necessary support to different browsers.

If either of these projects interests you, they could both benefit from your help. The GNU Telephony wiki suggests several ways you can get involved with the GNU Free Call project. Since WebRTC is focused on browser support right now, the best way to contribute is to get it integrated with your favorite free browser, like GNU IceCat or others based on Firefox. Both projects offer a great opportunity to get involved and help important work in the free software community.

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