Skype now has a momentum that makes it hard to ignore — almost anybody on broadband who is interested in dodging long distance call fees is now happily chatting away. And though it doesn’t always “just work”, it’s certainly good enough and easy enough that it has mainstream appeal, unlike most previous VOIP applications, at least the freebie ones.
But its proprietary nature has got some commenters hot under the collar. In this month’s Australian Personal Computer, Dan Warne takes a swipe at Skype (heh), and suggests we shouldn’t use it (not online alas). Ted Wallingford has a similar beef.
Personally, I’m just following the pack. I don’t have the time to look around for a good open source, standards-based alternative, and even so, would it have the critical mass of users that Skype has? A number of overseas friends are now on Skype, so I’m happy to have the client running, alongside Trillian — which is for my many ICQ contacts. Yes, ICQ. I also haven’t been convinced to switch to Jabber, the open source IM client… why would I? Only one person I know uses it.
It’d be great if Skype had embraced existing standards. They say SIP and other protocols weren’t good enough for them, and they had to go down their own road. But if likewise it would be a gesture of goodwill to open up the protocol, and get it ratified as a standard. Maybe when they’ve made their first billion.
The other night I had a surprise Skype call from a friend in Poland I haven’t talked to for about five years. It may have its problems sometimes, but by and large it does just work. And for me as a consumer, I’m afraid that’s more convincing than some open source, standards ideal.