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July 13th, 2016

Skype Finally Recognizes the Linux Market

Skype has announced an alpha version of a new client for Linux. Given Skype’s ownership by Microsoft, will Linux users care?

Breaking News

So Skype on GNU/Linux is finally getting something of an upgrade. This will be welcome news for some. Others will mumble “not on my machine” and go about their business. I can imagine nothing in the FOSS sphere as controversial as running a Microsoft owned product on Linux.

Skype logoThe announcement came about an hour ago via a post on the Skype site after an “exciting news for Linux users” teaser was posted on July 8. An “Alpha version of a new Skype for Linux client” has been released which uses WebRTC, and the Skype folks are eager to find testers for feedback. Downloads are available as both deb packages and RPMs. It’s stressed that this alpha version “is not a fully functioning Skype client as of yet” but it’s promised that a fully functioning version will be available pronto.

According to the announcement, the new client offers the latest and greatest Skype UI, not the antiquated UI and feature set on the current Linux client last updated two years ago. With the client, users “will be able to call your friends and family on the latest versions of Skype on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, but you won’t be able to make or receive calls to and from the previous versions of Skype for Linux (4.3.0.37).”

This wasn’t the only alpha release made by Skype today. The company also announced that users of “Chromebook or Chrome on Linux can now visit web.skype.com and make one-to-one and group voice calls on top of the messaging features they get today.” This alpha release doesn’t include video calling or calls to landlines and mobile devices, which also will be coming soon.

Like many of you, I imagine, I have very mixed feelings about today’s announcement. Anything that increases the functionality of desktop Linux is good for the operating system, I suppose, and users have been frustrated for years by Skype’s lack of Linux support. On the other hand, it’s not easy to get excited about being able to use a Microsoft product on Linux.

Later today or early tomorrow I’ll probably download the new client and see if I can get it running on the Mint 18 installation I’m testing. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing the experiences of any of our readers who give it a try.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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9 comments to Skype Finally Recognizes the Linux Market

  • DocB

    I was always wondering…M$ uses OBS but was not able to deliver a 64 bit Skype client (for RPM based distros).
    So in between…who cares about Skype for Linux? Hangouts works much smarter….

  • Since the introduction of WebRTC and the various javavscript-based clients that exist now (take Firefox Hello for example), I have to wonder just how important proprietary applications and proprietary networks are for p2p video chat? I know there isn’t 100% feature coverage between Skype and… again say… Firefox Hello… but I would think it would be close enough for most people.

  • Jayro Jones

    I’ve used Skype on Linux since 2012, so what’s the big deal?

  • Ilmarinen

    The big deal is that Linux is usually an afterthought for most commercial/proprietary companies/programs.
    Either that or not even thought about.
    You MAY be have been using Skype on Linux since 2012 but how often has it been updated and how much has changed.

    Not interested in Skype myself but I wish AutoCAD had a Linux client.
    The only reason there is still a Windows machine on my network…

  • Andre

    Finally, some spyware for Linux, all the security and privacy will be now completed with ms code.

  • tracyanne

    I stopped using Skype on my Linux boxes when Microsoft purchased the company.

    I used it exactly once since then, when someone I had not had contact with for sometime wanted to use Skype to contact me. I had to reinstall it, after our conversation, With video disabled at my end (god I’m so flucking paranoid) I uninstalled it.

    The fact that Microsoft [officially] recognises Linux is neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned.

  • Duncan

    I see it’s “exciting news for Linux users”, not “exciting news for free software users”. That’s all I need to know, and why I couldn’t legally install it on my systems even if I wanted to (I can’t agree to the EULAs).

    Duncan

  • Mike

    Skype is crap. Use something secure (and FOSS).

    https://www.eff.org/node/82654

    @Duncan,

    Shrink-wrapped EULAs are mostly unenforceable, but there are lots of great reasons not to touch Skype besides that.

  • Nelson H

    For a decent free (as in beer, not speech) 2D CAD, you might check out Draftsight.