Ever since we heard that a bunch of developers were setting out to create a new secure type of Skype chat product, which couldn’t be broken into or suffer from government or 3rd party eavesdropping, we have been keeping an eye on it. And it’s now at last emerging slowly from the deep shadows of development.
Tox is not quite ready for Joe Public consumption as yet, although if you’re enthusiastic you can certainly get a few of your friends together to use the desktop version. But you’ll still need to understand a little about peer to peer technology to make the mobile apps work, and when we tried the two clients we couldn’t get anything to happen except a crash on Android.
But with that said, it’s amazing how far and how fast things have progressed on the project. The basic desktop computer client is working now, and offers not just text and audio chat, but also group chat, video and audio and file sharing, and all wrapped up in a nicely encrypted, decentralized wrapper which ensures it can’t be snooped into by er snoopers.
The first time you fire up the program, you’ll see the bare bones client as pictured above, and that’s when you’re going to need to have friends on the service so you can connect. And this is where the first hurdle will appear. Because in order to connect to your friends, you’re going to need to first exchange your Tox ID, which is a rather intimidating long number something like
It’s possible there are ways to alias it into a shorter email type ID, but for most people that will immediately be a hurdle too far, especially if you’re switching from Skype’s ultra easy alias system. Of course this is something which will almost certainly get simpler over time, but it’s definitely something which will put a lot of people off, unless you have enough of a need for privacy that you’ll overlook the complicated sign on.
We tried our best to get some quality time chat using the default GroupBot test, but failed, so obviously we’re just not the sort of people they want wandering around poking and prodding (just kidding). The main takeaway is that this is a very polished product already, even in this early stage, which means it’s going to be very nice, and easy to get to grips with, once it’s finished. There’s a minimum of icons and unnecessary bloat, it just features the bits you need to chat, video or audio with people, and we like that a lot.
The big test will come when it starts being used by millions of people, on computers and phones, and starts being probed and tested on the security front, but from what we’ve learned so far, the developers seem to be keeping ahead of the game in terms of making it as secure as promised. The important thing to remember is it’s fully open source, which means no ads, no commercial charges, and a dedicated development community to add clients, platforms and relevant features over time. If you’re in the market for a secure chat tool, then this should definitely be at the top of your list. Here’s a quick video demo from someone (limited sound).