I Hate...Skype

Wednesday 2nd November, 2005
I won't mince my words...I don't like Skype.

Don't get me wrong, I like the concept...I like what's it's trying to do...but there's a catch.

Skype is VoIP, but it's proprietary. It originally allowed people with a broadband connected PC and a headset to call international locations at good value rates, but it's proprietary. You could receive and make calls for free to other Skype users, but it's proprietary. You can receive calls from standard phones now, into Skype. With the popularity of Skype, they've now started marketing Skype phone, but they're proprietary.

OK, I've mentioned the word proprietary a fair amount now, but what do I mean?

What I mean is that Skype is good for calling people for free...If they use Skype. Skype phones are great, if I use Skype. Skype is great for everyone who uses Skype...but nobody else. This is why everybody who uses Skype wants you to sign up to Skype and says it's great. If you sign up, they can call you for free...but only if you use Skype.

The UK and many other nations suffered for years by having a single telecoms provider. This left us with a single, overpriced, monopoly we called British Telecom. Even now, BT are still strangling us by holding onto local telephone exchanges and limiting capacity for competing companies.

Nearly all the other VoIP companies use the standard protocol of SIP. This is an open standard and anybody using a SIP device can call anybody else. Softphone/headsets, SIP phones or SIP adapters all use SIP. They will work with any SIP provider. When I moved from my VoIP provider Gossiptel over to Sipgate I didn't need to buy new hardware, didn't need to install and new software. I just change my provider in the config and enter my new login/password. If you leave Skype then you'll need to uninstall it. If you have a Skype phone, you can just throw it in the bin; it's no use with anything else.

The open SIP protocol encourages competition, allows easy supplier switching and avoid wasted investment in hardware. It doesn't matter which provider you use, your SIP kit should always work.

So, if you're thinking of using Skype...think about it...do you want open standards and healthy competition or another Microsoft?

  1. 1) Stuart McIntyre Said: (02/11/2005 12:25:20 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Skype

    Ben, I see your point - I am all for open standards and non-proprietary software too.

    However, Skype does have market share, some serious marketing nous, and a great GUI that common users understand, hence its position in the marketplace.

    As a relative newbie to VOIP, what are my options? Whats the best SIP-compatible app out there? Does it work across Windows and Mac platforms? Can it do voicemail and calling out? If theres a viable alternative tell us...

    Cheers, Stuart

  2. 2) Ben Rose Said: (02/11/2005 12:40:24 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Skype

    Stuart,

    There are loads of SIP providers out there, I named some above. Nearly all of them provide a "softphone" utility to allow PC based inbound and outbound calling. The same core softphone app is rebranded for most providers.

    At enterprise level, our new Polish office has been kitted out with a VoIP based PBX system, all phone running through the PC on the desktop and IBM are swiftly converting all their internal phone to VoIP as users move to the home-office.

    Just for starters, give Gossiptel { Link } a go and let me know how you get on. Free sign-up, free software, you can even call me for free and every other SIP compatible user for free. It would be interesting to see how it compares to Skype.

    I switched from Gossiptel to Sipgate www.sipgate.co.uk as I wanted a UK geographic number for inbound calls free of charge.

  3. 3) Josef Said: (02/11/2005 13:12:56 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Gossiptel

    No Linux client? Skype has got one...

  4. 4) Ben Rose Said: (02/11/2005 13:41:42 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Skype

    Gossiptel use the open standard of SIP that I've been promoting.

    Try the list of clients here: { Link }

    All of them will work with Gossiptel and any other SIP provider. You'll see they're available on any platform.

  5. 5) Chaz Said: (02/11/2005 14:35:16 GMT) Gravatar Image
    I Hate...Skype

    I'm with Jaffa.. SIP is the way forward. Would highly recommend getting a proper "hard" phone rather than using a piece of software on the PC. You can get an adapter for about ■50 which will let you plug in any normal landline phone, and then I'd get a free account and landline number from { Link } like me and Jaffa have done. I use it to call my girlfriend in the USA every night, and the call quality is absolutely amazing, miles better than my BT landline and the delay is almost zero, whereas it's a couple of seconds on my landline.

    On the plus side, Nokia's new handsets out in Jan 06 have SIP built-in so you can make free calls using your WiFi access point when you're at home or work instead of the calls going out through your mobile phone company. Sweet!

  6. 6) Josef Said: (03/11/2005 08:53:47 GMT) Gravatar Image
    I Hate...Skype

    @4 Sorry for that, should have been obvious..

    BTW: what about NAT (DLS etc.), any experience?

  7. 7) Ben Rose Said: (03/11/2005 08:57:30 GMT) Gravatar Image
    I Hate...Skype

    "NAT (DLS etc.)"?

    Sorry, not sure what you're on about there...can you clarify?

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