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Digg and Slashdot were abuzz earlier this morning with the news that Skype was going to go open source. The buzz was based on a post on a French blog by Olivier Faurax. The news is true and false at the same time. “It is our intention to make Skype for Linux an open source app in the near future and make the UI source code available to the community at large. This should help to speed up the development process and enhance support for the myriad of Linux distros,” a spokesperson told us.
On the Skype blog, a spokesperson writes:
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.
What that means is that the core protocol will not be open sourced and will remain closed. I think the point here is clear; a majority of the underlying technology for Skype service is owned by JoltID, a company controlled by Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. Skype and its founders are locked in a legal battle over the use of this technology.
It doesn’t look like Skype is going to open source its other clients. I think the ramifications of the Linux version being open sourced are pretty huge. An open source version of the client could lead to Skype being embedded in non-PC devices. One of the best examples of this marriage of Linux and Skype is the new Nokia N900 which uses the Maemo variant of Linux. Skype could be embedded in different Internet devices such as tablets that are being developed by various companies. In addition, it could also help Skype be prepared for new Linux-based OS variants such as Google Chrome OS.
All in all, it seems like a very smart move: the only question that remains is when will Skype actually do something?