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The future of Skype

Roelf thinks the Microsoft acquisition of Skype will ruin the service, and something FOSS will supersede it. I enjoy reading his opinions almost as much as I enjoy disagreeing with him :-)

Now here is the thing about Skype, it always works, unlike SIP and friends.

You see, on the modern Internet, there are so many middle-boxes interfering with traffic between users that only two kinds of protocols survive: those that have been in use by everyone since the Internet got commercialized (SMTP, HTTP) and hence no-one dares to break, and those designed by hackers trying to subvert the system (Peer-to-peer file sharing). Skype happens to be one of the latter (Skype’s P2P design was based on Kazaa).

This explains why my multiple attempts to get simple VoIP with SIP signaling working reliably on networks where I control the middle-boxes, all failed. Apparently even people who build particle accelerators can’t build something that works as well as Skype (it turns out they’ve tried).

So, I don’t expect Ekiga or Google Talk to work as substitutes any time soon. I would welcome an open alternative as robust as Skype, but I also don’t believe this can be achieved by following standards, it would have to be hackish.

Welcome to the Internet, it is an ugly place.

Now, the overlords in Redmond paying Nokia to get Windows exclusively onto a major mobile platform and soon after buying Skype is no coincidence.

I think they want a messaging service that can compete with RIM’s BBM, and buying Skype simultaneously gets them some technology to start with, as well as a large (170M) user base. The user adoption problem can be hard to crack when you’re slow-moving and lack innovation.

Unlike Roelf, I believe MS is likely to continue multi-platform Skype client support, but I have to point out that it wasn’t that great to start with. In my experience the Linux client is awful and I understand that it lags substantially behind the Windows client. I think this will also suit them: by providing some support for a wide range of platforms they benefit from extra network effect, but if you want the features, switch to an MS platform… resistance is futile.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Roelf Diedericks | 12 May 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Yep, Skype certainly can hack a route through nearly anything.

    But it’s not really that technically impossible to implement or emulate. There’s just been no real driver for it.

    Microsoft I think, has now quite neatly provided a bit of a driver. Well, for me at least ;)

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