Free and Open Source VoIP News

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why thou shall not use Skype!

(ahora en castellano tambiƩn e in italiano) Digg this story

This is a blog focused on FOSS so I shouldn't be talking too much about proprietary stuff.
The only problem is not too much that Skype is proprietary (though it is), the real issue is that it uses a closed and proprietary protocol. Now, what does that mean? It means that Skype users are only allowed to communicate with... well, other skype users.

What's the big deal?
Try to apply that concept to real landline phones, say you're a Verizon subscriber and you want to call a friend that is a subscriber to another company that is not Verizon, what would happen? Your friend would need to buy a special phone from Verizon or subscribe to their service to be able to communicate with you. Sounds annoying right?
In the software world, softphones that use open and free standards such as SIP can communicate with one another, this is impossible with Skype.

Who cares? Downloading Skype won't cost me a penny!
You might be right for now but what if Skype gets almost all VoIP users and that all VoIP hardware phones get Skype compatible only. Skype might decide to charge too much for its hardware license and turn its gratis softphone as we know it today into a fee based service!
This is called Vendor lock-in, it is common practice among software companies. It consists of tricking users into using a technology for free and then charge unfair fees for it once it has become a standard because it's costly to move away from a de facto standard see this wikipedia article about that problem (Vendor lock-in is what Microsoft did with its API and Franhofer with MP3).
Most importantly, letting the means of communication in the hands of only one entity is undemocratic especially when this entity uses a secret protocol that can only be controlled by that entity (a profit driven company). Are you OK with losing your freedom and privacy for a bit of commodity from Skype? Is your freedom that cheap?

Who cares? I'll just stop using Skype and start using a gratis alternative!
Well, look at what happened in the office world. OpenOffice and GNU/Linux are free and gratis and yet no one is switching or at least slowly. Why is that? Switching technology in the corporate world is costly especially when it comes to hardware (think of all those Skype-compatible hardware phone your boss invested in...). So using Skype now is like getting addicted to some bad drug, it will be hard and costly to stop using it even if the dealer decides to raise unfair fees on you. Using Skype now is putting your future in the good will of Ebay Inc and Skype Corp.

OK I'm kind of convinced :) How can I avoid that?
Just don't use Skype or stop using it NOW. There are lots of alternatives that use standard protocol such as SIP and AIX. Tell your friends about alternatives. This is a blog focused on Free and Open Source alternatives so I will advise you this alternative.

Hope that post will help you make the switch to the free world of VoIP :)
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