Skype is Dead! Long Live Skype!
Today we received an email notification form Digium. All Digium partners received the same email heralding the death of one of the few proprietary systems that has been conveniently overlooked by the FOSS community for about a decade.
Skype. The ubiquitous niche carving communication system combining at least as good as old Ma Bell's POTS based voice telephony with chat, video and conferencing all three of those methods into one single, and [albeit proprietary] free application...
Some of the highlights during the Skype as we know it might be that it seemingly sprang from nowhere, overshadowing offerings by Netscape, ICQ, and Microsoft in a blitzkrieg of "FREE", and "NO SPYWARE".
Or perhaps it was because it didn't take long for respected propellorheads to begin touting it as a voice telephony appliance that was not only portable, but superior to traditional PSTN audio.
Although it certainly had merit on the technical front, I think what drew me to it the most was the kewl color scheme, the funky name that didn't mean anything before they made it up, or maybe that it had an air of "In your faceness", with respect to the other big IM players out there like YIM, AIM, MSN, Etc.
The last few years have not been without controversy, however. My personal favorite was when it suddenly Occurred to eBay that no one would buy Skype because they never purchased the underlying technology - only the product itself, and the proprietary protocol driving it was merely licensed. Moreover, that license was not indefinite.
Back to the two guys who hammered it into existence on their keyboards - Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström. I mean, who else could eBay sell it to?
Let us not forget that these are the two guys that brought you Kazaa: One of the first P2P apps that catalyzed an industry of applications which to this day are the bane of the RIAA and other entertainment industry organizations. But I digress...
So far, this story sounds a lot like the same horror story I tell pre-teens gathered around the campfire during three day weekends in the mountains - The bloody GKRPG saga (Gates, Kildall, Roth, Paterson, Gates).
In that B Movie turned real life, Microsoft displayed their first epic display of the classic opportunism that made them the great behemoth they are today. Or rather, were, a couple of years back, before the heels of Linux kicked sand in their eyes.
To make a long story short, Bill Gates of the fledgling Microsoft purchased the rights to DOS from Seattle Computer Products, leaving SCP with a license to sell copies of the software it developed to anyone. The rub was, that the 60 grand that Gates Paid Roth's company ensured that that SCP would never see a penny From IBM - who licensed the software from Microsoft (instead of it's creator, SCP) and branded it as "IBM PC-DOS version 1.01".
Later, when SCP needed hard cash Roth decided to sell DOS, or rather, his license to sell DOS - but Microsoft blocked him with a wall of attorneys stating that the transfer of his license was not included as part of his license.
Poof! DOS is Dead. Long Live DOS!
Some of us have seen this before. It doesn't necessarily mean that skype will cease to exist, but following the miserable failure of Microsoft's communication server they wish no one remembers, They could have a real winner on their hands, but we suspect it might just further their slide down the slippery slope that has marginalized them in the face of Free and Open Source software.
In fact, It's almost a miracle that FOSS fanatics ever embraced Skype in the first place, considering it's proprietary nature - not to mention all the bubbles that were popped three years ago when it was made public that Skype's encryption was rendered useless because of the back doors built into it - resulting in the imprisonment political activists China. More on that Story here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/02/skype_surveillance_in_china/
Well, perhaps we should just give you the news now. The Letter from Digium, who co-developed the Skype Asterisk Gateway with Skype, is below, and although even that product was a fee based, commercially licensed product, at least it had the characteristics of an application that played nicely in the Open Source community - until today.
Long live Microsoft. Hail Caesar.
Skype for Asterisk will not be available for sale or activation after July 26, 2011.
Skype for Asterisk was developed by Digium in cooperation with Skype. It includes proprietary software from Skype that allows Asterisk to join the Skype network as a native client. Skype has decided not to renew the agreement that permits us to package this proprietary software. Therefore Skype for Asterisk sales and activations will cease on July 26, 2011.
This change should not affect any existing users of Skype for Asterisk. Representatives of Skype have assured us that they will continue to support and maintain the Skype for Asterisk software for a period of two years thereafter, as specified in the agreement with Digium. We expect that users of Skype for Asterisk will be able to continue using their Asterisk systems on the Skype network until at least July 26, 2013. Skype may extend this at their discretion.
Skype for Asterisk remains for sale and activation until July 26, 2011. Please complete any purchases and activations before that date.
Thank you for your business.
Digium Product Management
Okay then. I think that about sums things up for the time being. Now we wait for December and see what Santa Clause has to say about our friends in Redmond ;)