Skype plays footsie with open source

Skype plays footsie with open source

Summary: All Skype really plans to open source is a Linux version of its client. The protocol remains proprietary. So if you have a Linux phone and want to support Skype's proprietary protocol on your new hardware, you can.

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As I wrote earlier today, when something goes open source we should ask how.

So in contrast with Yahoo's open sourcing of Traffic Server, let's talk about Skype's "open source" move.

Yahoo was trying to build value from community. Skype is trying an embrace and extend strategy like that of Blackboard.

To its credit Skype is being frank on that.

Yes, there's an open source version of Linux client being developed. This will be a part of larger offering, but we can't tell you much more about that right now. Having an open source UI will help us get adopted in the "multicultural" land of Linux distributions, as well as on other platforms and will speed up further development. We will update you once more details are available.

It's a half-cheer for open source.

All Skype really plans to open source is a Linux version of its client. The protocol remains proprietary. So if you have a Linux phone (Moblin, Android, etc.) and want to support Skype's proprietary protocol on your new hardware, you can.

This is the first technology move by Skype since eBay sold it to private investors for $2 billion , followed by assorted legal shenanigans. Everyone involved in that deal wants to protect that value.

But telephony is a low-bandwidth application. Its value going forward shouldn't be voice as-such, but the integration of voice with other computer applications. In that world being wholly proprietary is a disadvantage. But opening up completely may be seen as giving away the goose that lays golden eggs.

Skype is caught east of the rock and west of the hard place. It knows it needs an open source strategy, but it fears giving itself away.

My view is this is not going to end well.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Where to for Skype

    It's always tough to predict where something will end up in the future. Those unexpected little surprises tend to throw things off a bit. I think what Skype is trying to do is expand into a growing market, namely the Linux market. To do that, you have to be somewhat receptive of that market's ideals. Proprietary isn't it. So, this is basically a way to break the ice, so to speak, in the courtship of a future relationship with Linux communities.

    Saying that they are trying to get into Linux is inaccurate. They already have Linux versions of their client (though their Ubuntu offering has become rather out of date, and has been removed from Ubuntu's list of default install programs with the release of Karmic Koala). I suspect that there's a plan to dominate in the Linux market. There are other IP telephony offerings out there (Gizmo5 for personal use and sipXecs for the enterprise), but they don't have the marketing experience that Skype does. And that is to Skype's advantage.
    NCWeber