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Skype 2.0 eats its young

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Another day, another beta.

Skype, a division of eBay launched Skype 2.0 beta for Windows. Just in time for some customers who got their passwords compromised. The elaborate press release and WSJ review while impressive don’t help mask the fact that, Skype is short on new ground breaking ideas.

Personalization via avatars and ring-tones… big new idea? Not really. Phil Wolff over on Skype Journal puts it nicely when he writes, “If you’ve been using Skype, the Beta version of Skype 2.0 for Windows won’t give you a new Wow! experience.” (A nice review in the Journal should help put incumbent CEOs in a bad mood first thing, and well, redouble their efforts. …. okay just kidding about that! Actually Israel is getting pretty serious about giving Skype the shank. So are other neighboring Gulf states!)

The Video calling feature seems great, except when it starts getting mass adoption, it will start to choke the upstream part of your broadband, and for some odd reason that really makes incumbents mad! Tt also raises some crucial questions about the future of independent developers. As Skype continues to subsume great ideas implemented by its developer community, is it running the risk of alienating the very community that made it great. Today three companies that offer Skype plugins get impacted – Video plugin maker Festoon and DialCom that offers Video4IM. Skype now offers a new Microsoft Outlook toolbar which impacts another independent developer, the Skylook.

The standard features make it harder for many developers to make a fiscal argument to stay in the Skype ecosystem. As they flee, the system breaks down, and new ideas stop flowing. (Of course that would also mean, some great stealable concepts would never materialize.) These same guys, start supporting Gizmo Project, which uses open source, then the momentum can quickly shift away from Skype.

I think these kind of hiccups are leaving an opening for others upstarts to come in and make a play for Skype’s market. (I wish Google would get its GTalk act together!) Many times I have beaten up on Microsoft, but even they leave big-fat crumbs for the little guys to help grow the Windows ecosystem. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Skype. After all, Apple also has a habit of taking from the “independent developers” and getting away with it. Sadly, eBay/Skype is no Apple.

I would love to hear from guys who develop for Skype platform.

42 Responses to “Skype 2.0 eats its young”

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  2. Anonymous

    hey, rly good discussion and usefull info. i just wanted to ask about the hacking, is it possible to get away from that and how? i mean if id like to chat with family that live abroad how can i do that without getting my documents stolen?

  3. I have skype 1, and when I downloaded ver.2.0 my Olympia telephone died. I had to reinstall the old version. can anyone tell me if I made a mistake, or is the newer versoins not compatible with old ones?

  4. Commnon Sense

    Skype core would die if it tried to offer a basic vanilla software with 3rd party “pay” add ons to support their developer community while competitors offer full features for free or as part of their basic offering. It seems everyone forgets the customer in all of the griping. If there is no desire for the core product, then ALL developers are SOL. A failure to grow new ideas and offer new value add earns any business a quick death…not just lazy add-in developers. Time to change your nappy and grow up. (btw: I wouldn’t even give Skype a look until v2 and without some of the devs offering their basic products for free, I wouldn’t be looking now.

  5. Have you tried the new Video conf feature in MSN messenger 7.5 ..its really good. The voice quality rivals that of skype and the video is very good. I just tested out Skype video and its as good as what MSN offers but maybe slightly on the lower side since I could see some video quality distortions which never happened with MSN. Sadly MSN being a MSFT product does not get the same press coverage as say a Skype or Google Talk. Google Talk is crappy compared to the rest. Skype undisputedly has best voice quality and Yahoo is best through firewalls. But Yahoo seems to be loosing out in that race..its new “voip” feature isnt anywhere as good as MSN or Skype.

  6. Interesting collection of comments and observations. I’ll be blogging more on the 2.0 failure. It’s at best a yawn and suggests many deeper problems at Skype. There was no need for Skype’s video to be me too, (btw the quality is hardly best in class and the bandwidth and CPU requirements excessive)with many opportunities to differentiate it from competitors and break new ground. Simplest example. Introduce video messaging concurrently and then work out how to send that to cellphones at the same time.

    On developers there is no doubt the small guys are cynical. There’s also “safe” developments and areas that are more risky. Developers should continue to use Skype as a prototyping platform.

    Soon the other IM systems will offer API’s. It stands to reason that Skype’s message response API elements will be adopted by others to get their name on all the devices that are being made.

  7. I do not think that was a fair statement to make. First, these seemed like a very natural extension of the product, and secondly, lets face it, 90% of users would not download festoon to use video on skype. The only way to really drive adoption of skype as a video platform was to build it themselves. MSN had that for a gazillion years back, limited as it maybe. And as one person commented rightly, that is how the market evolves. A platform goes from being a platform to an app developer for that platform. Buttt… i do understand how the skype developers are gonna feel right now, and i just hope they keep innovating!

  8. Jesse Kopelman

    It’s funny to me that the conservative set either can’t or refuse to see that the internet is a breeding ground for hydrae. Microsoft crushes Netscape, up come Opera and Firefox. The RIAA kills Napster, up come edonkey and gnutella. If enough people block Skype, some things even better will rise up to take its place and the only one hurt will be eBay.

  9. videonanalyst

    Have you bothered to consider that there could be very good reasons Skype has released its own video client, licensing the technology from On2 Technologies and not just buying one of the off the shelf developer community products you mention? One good reason might be that the video compression technology they licensed is superior to anything the Skype developer community could provide and also better than anything the major competitors to Skype can offer.

    Also, in checking around it appears that On2 video compression technology is establishing a substantial footprint through the likes of AOL which uses it for their Triton (AIM with video) and Tencent (largest IM service in the world operting in China)which recently licensed it for their service, not to mention that GIPS, purveyor of the audio compression used by Skype and a large number of other VOIP services, has recently integrated VP7 support into its SDK offering. It probably also doesn’t hurt that it also looks like Macromedia is using On2 technology in Flash 8 and from the sounds of things I have been reading probably will be using it in Breeze as well.

    I’m thinking longer term considerations of interoperability and potential standardization take precedence for Skype over supporting a polyglot of incompatible, developer community produced, video plugins. I think your prespective is extremely narrow.

  10. Keep it simple…that is the mantra I stick with in today’s featured filled market. Those who are doing so have succeeded thus far (including, to this point, Skype).

    So many people still have never even used Skype (or Gizmo Project, etc.) and have yet to experience the rebirth of Internet telephony. Why make it more complicated and potentially more troublesome (in the case where its not getting the bandwidth it needs or simply hogging the bandwidth)?

  11. Om,
    We integrated Jybe with Skype and won an award for our efforts. However, there was never a promise that Skype would not take our functionality and I know of two other companies who had issues with this – contact me if you want more info. Also, I agree with you about the ecosystem of Skype – it is open, but only to a point and the independent developer had better beware.

  12. Andre Oppermann

    At least Apple first tries to buy out a company of the ecosystem. See iTunes for example. Unless of course the feature is so obvious and trivial that there is no particular case to buy anyone.

  13. I don’t develop extensions for Skype, but do facilitate a community of developers around a developer network (a similar principle to what Skype are doing here).

    From the outset, I felt it important to ensure that the community didn’t feel its ideas and developments were ripped off. Mechanisms were put in place to ensure that this didn’t occur, and that it was clear that we are playing fair. These included explicitly stating that the developers maintained IP rights over what they produced.

    Enabling your expert userbase to extend your product/service is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the otherwise dreaded web2.0 meme. However it’s a privilege, not a right.

    If you don’t want others to provide true value-added services that could potentially eclipse your own base-product, than perhaps you shouldn’t provide an API. To allow others to pioneer new market opportunities around your product, and then march in over the top of them the moment it nears a critical mass is arguably objectionable.

    Being a true “Web2.0 businessâ€? it not about having a fancy API but about being happy to let go of some of the control and power you otherwise hold over your product.

    (These are my personal views, of course, and not those of my employer)

  14. Om: just FYI… Gizmo is NOT an open source project. It uses the standard SIP protocol but that’s it. OpenWengo, on the other hand, is multi-platform, standards based and is licenced under GPL, so it’s REALLY open source!

  15. Al Houti

    “Actually Israel is getting pretty serious about giving Skype the shank. So are other Gulf states!)”

    Israel is not a gulf state. No Gulf for hundreds of miles around.