While Skype and Fring feud over video calls, could FaceTime be the answer?

Fring's updated app allowed iPhone 4 owners to make unrestricted 2-way video calls to Skype on the desktop, but now it doesn't because of a kerfuffel between the VOIP heavyweights. This one is a draw and the loser is the customer.

Last week VOIP provider Fring released an update to its iPhone app (free, App Store) that allowed iPhone 4 owners to make unrestricted 2-way video calls over Wi-Fi or 3G with other iPhones, Android or Symbian devices.

This was a big deal because while FaceTime is restricted to iPhone 4 users on WiFi, Fring could now make video calls to Fring or Skype on phones or on desktop computers. Imagine the possibilities!

Unfortunately, I had to use the word "could," as in past tense.

The whole sordid tale turned ugly today when Fring claimed that Skype blocked it and called the company "cowards" that are "afraid of open mobile communication."

Skype responded by saying that although the two were talking about it, Fring is lying about being blocked and that Fring itself "withdrew support for video calls over Skype on iOS 4 without warning."

Skype then rattled its $2B legal saber stating that Fring was "in breach of Skype’s API Terms of Use and End User License Agreement" adding that "developers that do not comply with our terms will be subject to legal enforcement."

It would be nice if all the VOIP and SIP clients (Skype, Fring, Truphone, et al.) banded together and supported the open platforms behind FaceTime so that we can all use video calling. We need to learn a lesson from the fragmentation that happened with incompatible IM protocols and agree on one open platform for video calling and put all legal posturing behind us -- for the benefit of the customer.