Looking for a Skype-Beater? Tox is Ready to Try.

By Steve Anderson September 03, 2014

4Chan, as a whole, doesn't have the best of reputations online. While most of this negative reputation can be traced to the random board known as /b/-occasionally referred to as the Internet equivalent of Mos Eisley, complete with the phrase “a hive of scum and villainy” commonly applied—much of 4Chan is, according to reports, largely lacking in both scum and villainy. The site that birthed the Anonymous movement is also said to have given birth to a new communications tool, one that looks to outclass Skype itself, and it's called Tox.

The current reports suggest that Tox is a Skype replacement that uses open source tools and has a particular focus on privacy. The product of a group of programmers who came from not only 4Chan but also Hacker News and Reddit who have gotten together in a bid to create the better, more secure chat tool.  It's likely that some users will be interested just from the description of the product itself, but the current word says that the product is still under development. But for those who want to give it a shot anyway and see what the fuss is about, there are several usable, if unofficial, Tox clients out there. In fact, the focus will actually be on unofficial Tox apps, and one of the most widely-used among these is uTox, a Windows-based client available as either a weekly or nightly build.

Tox's developers make no bones about the quality of the apps, saying that users should expect the apps to be buggy, or to be missing features that should be in place. But reports from uTox users suggest that the app is easy to use and rather simple to understand, offering up a series of useful features ranging from file sharing to phone and video calling. Indeed, there were some problems found with some of the features, but considering that this is still early alpha at best, it's really to be expected.

Tox works on a peer-to-peer system, much in the way Skype itself was before Microsoft bought it and moved the company more toward centralized servers. Those who download uTox, for example, get a Tox ID, a unique series of numbers and letters which is then sent to anyone the user would like to talk to, and since the whole thing is connected to a number-and-letter system rather than names or distinct identities, the end result is a more private overall experience that can be stepped into immediately without the need to sign up for an account first. Encryption, meanwhile, is based on the NaCl encryption library for added protection.

While this sounds like a good thing in the making, it's worth wondering if maybe Tox is solving the wrong problem. After all, there are plenty of Skype equivalents out there, and the rise of Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) has helped to drive plenty of these and plenty more to follow. While Tox certainly has a competitive advantage here in the form of its particular attention to privacy, will it be able to maintain that advantage in the face of a steadily-growing group of communications tools all looking to take down Skype as the biggest fish in the pond, so to speak?

Only time, naturally, will tell just how well Tox does in the field. But the early word suggests that this is a system that might get more use than anyone might have initially suspected, and that could make an already unstable market that much more so.


Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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