Blog Post

Skype rules, but for how long?

Conventional wisdom, even among telecom cognoscenti is that Skype has become so big, that it can be declared a platform. Who can argue? After a shinny pretty face, a Mac-like ease of use and millions of users, when married to superb voice quality, it is hard not to like Skype. Even I have fallen prey to the charms of the product, and have found that I am shifting my VoIP minutes away from Vonage to Skype.

Still, I think there are some issues, which need to be talked about and addressed in our open forum. Last month, Popular Telephony, makers of another p2p VoIP software Peerio, announced that they were adding Skype support in their gateway. What it essentially means is that a small company using PT’s PBX replacement system can now pure-Skype calls on its gateway and then route them to different extensions, and Skype callers can leave voice mails as well. The outgoing calls work the same way – use the gateway and call someone on the Skype network.

(This is not such good news for PBX makers, or even those VoIP companies that are vying for the so-called-low-hanging fruit, aka small and medium sized businesses. Vonage just announced its intentions, and CBeyond wants to go public soon!)

PT’s gateway was meant to function as a bridge to the PSTN world, the old POTS network. Now it is also functioning as a bridge to Skype network, essentially turning Skype into a service provider, sans pipes. “We have always said that they are a service provider,” Dmitry Goroshevsky, CEO of PT said in an interview. (PT wants to become the middleware glue for VoIP, supporting all comers in its gateway and making sure that enterprise customers can make phone calls across all types of VoIP networks. Dmitry said that if Yahoo becomes popular tomorrow, then he would support Yahoo.)

PT was able to do this by building support for Skype API in their software. Now lets take this one step further – what if suddenly Yahoo and MSN and AOL start adding support for the Skype into their IM clients, just like Jeff Pulver did with Free World?

Today, Jeff Pulver put out an RFI for a way to leverage SIP and the Skype network. “So I have discussed with Henry if and how the SIP community can leverage SIP to make the best of both worlds into something that is greater than the sum of both,” he writes.

What are the implications of this? First if many services, some running on SIP start to interface with Skype, Skype simply becomes part of the whole “IP” voice equation, one of the many ways to connect. Now if there is a way where you you don’t need to get a Skype ID to communicate with other Skypers, then Skype becomes less important. Does this increase or decrease the value of its footprint? From a Metcalfe’s law standpoint, this would be fantastic news, but for a company looking to find ways to leverage its proprietary technologies, it becomes a “business problem.” Something to ponder about?

12 Responses to “Skype rules, but for how long?”

  1. Michael Robertson

    You shouldn’t have to support Skype’s API to “kinda” work together. Skype’s directory should be open to others to access. Otherwise net calling world will suffer the same fate as IM – a balkanized system with different people on different systems unable to communicate.

    You should only support voip providers committed to an open, interconnected directory. SIPphone recently released Gizmo (see: which is a capable skype competitor and has some snazzy new features like mapping. Most importantly, Gizmo interconnects with everyone unlike Skype. This is very important for the sane development of the VOIP world.

    Mac/Win versions of Gizmo are out now with Lin coming soon.

    — Michael

  2. Is it true that Peerio is not running the Skype client at all, not even in the “Skype gateway”? Somewhere, somebody has to convert the Skype signaling messages to Peerio messages. Yes that conversion can be done with the help of Skype API. But to access that API, Skype client must be running. So it will be a real feat if Peerio has avoided the use of Skype altogether.

  3. but that’s not what guys at peerio have done. which is the difference. i think if that transparent to-and-from communication can happen – then skype network becomes more valuable at the same time prone to risk of being sidelined. i think running two clients at the same time doesn’t make much sense. so perhaps pulver communicator should have a way to talk to skype without booting up two software clients.

  4. MichaelK

    Om, an important clarification…pulver.Communicator does support Skype, however users of the application must be registered to Skype and have the Skype software running on their system to enjoy its benefits.

    Once configured, Communicator opens the Skype client at start-up and thereafter runs all communications to-from Skypers through it. As such, assuming other IM clients will work in the same or similar manners the Skype footprint cannot be affected in a negative manner (thought such functionality can, of course, affect said footprint in the positive by causing non-Skypers to register/download so they can bridge their IM client apps to their Skype buddies).

  5. Yes that is if you take only service – SKype – into account. the point I am trying to make is that, with the API now other services can plug into Skype and hence make signing up for Skype less important. which is why I think Skype has alunched an affiliates program so they can keep growing/

  6. The following are my guess on how Peerio/Skype really works (some differ from yours).
    1. All Peerio clients will have their own Skype ID.
    2. Peerio gateway becomes Skype supernode for all these clients.
    3. Skype partners will take care of interconnecting Peerio clients to PSTN.
    4. PT clients support same codec and encryption as used by Skype.

    What does Skype get with this
    1. Enterprises wanted to control their Skype supernode. With this architecture, Skype has given that.
    2. Skype needed PBX like features; shared call appearence, bridging etc. If PT’s claim is true, then Skype gets these features.
    3. Skype can repeat this kind of arrangement with other players.

    What does Peerio get with this
    1. They do not have to develop media gateways; it gets it via SkypeOut/In.