Why Can't Skype Get "Presence" Right?

Why Can't Skype Get "Presence" Right?

Summary: I've had Skype running on some of the Linux test installations for the past couple of weeks. One thing that has become clear is that the erratic "presence" indication is not unique to the Windows client, it is also in the Linux client.


I've had Skype running on some of the Linux test installations for the past couple of weeks. One thing that has become clear is that the erratic "presence" indication is not unique to the Windows client, it is also in the Linux client. I only have about a half-dozen Skype contacts left (and I'm trying my best to get them to switch to a better program), but I still get a steady stream of "xxxxx has appeared online" / "xxxxx has gone offline" notifications for most of those. Most of these are for people whom I know are either sitting in front of their computer working, so they are certainly online and active, or are nowhere near their computer, so whatever their state is, it shouldn't be changing. This bug has been reported and discussed in the Skype User Forums for years now, without ever being fixed. Just about every time a new Skype release comes out, they claim it is "fixed", and it never takes more than a day for someone to report that it still doesn't work properly. Is Skype incapable of getting this information reliably right, or are they simply unwilling to make the effort to fix it?

This might seem like relatively unimportant information, but Peter Csathy (CEO of SightSpeed) has a guest writer in his Digital Media Update Blog today, who discusses spontaneous video chats as a telecommuting equivalent to "water cooler chats". He says that the first step in such a chat is checking the online presence indication of the other person. That makes sense, you can't chat with someone who isn't present - but if the presence indication is incorrect or unreliable, you may well not be able to chat with them regardless of whether they are actually present or not.

SightSpeed gets this presence indication correct, consistently and in detail. So does ooVoo, and Gizmo5, MSN Live, Yahoo, and in fact all of the other Video/IM programs I have looked at, going all the way back to ICQ. It would be nice if Skype had people with the technical competence to get this fixed, or management who insisted that it be fixed, but apparently they are lacking one or the other, or both.

jw 22/7/2008

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • Why Can't Skype Get "Presence" Right?

    According to this report in "Jira" the Skype Developers Section https://developer.skype.com/jira/browse/SCW-701 the proble has been fixed but is would seem that it is still causing some people problems.

    If anyboby is still having problems with the presence service no matter what OS system please add you report to the link posted above. Thank you.
  • Why Can't Skype Get "Presence" Right?

    Hi, Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm not surprised to hear that Skype claims this problem is "fixed" in the new release, as I said they make that claim in every release. Those claims simply prove that it has not in fact been fixed - if it had been, they wouldn't need to keep making the same claim over and over again. In fact, I strongly suspect that this problem isn't in the Skype client anyway, it is in their vastly overloaded "Super Node" system, so their claims that it is "fixed" by any particular client release are nonsense.

    As for adding a report to the Jira system, how many times has it been reported already? How many times has Skype lied about it being fixed? What, exectly, would be accomplished by adding another report, since it is obvious that no one at Skype reads or cares about those reports?

    Anyway, thanks again for reading, and I wish you the best of luck with your Skype (mis-)adventures.

    jw 23/7/2008