Skype Announces A Future Announcement

As I was going through my morning routine, scanning news feeds and sipping coffee, my attention was grabbed by the TechCrunch headline “Skype Opens Up SkypeKit SDK To All Devices And Desktop Apps.” Being a developer and wanting deeper technical details, I eagerly click on over to SkypeKit. Rather than the detail I’m expecting, I’m greeted with marketing fluff concluded with this final sentence:

Developers can register for an invitation to the SkypeKit Beta Program beginning on July 23.

So, let me get this straight. You’re announcing that I can sign up for a future announcement. Gee, thanks!

Despite the fact that this behavior disillusions me, I understand the pragmatic reasons why people in Skype’s management and marketing department would be motivated to do this.

Skype’s announcement coincides with the imminent release of iPhone 4. In the past few years, Apple has dramatically changed the communications landscape with the iPhone. The latest device includes the biggest revolution since the original iPhone: FaceTime, which allows iPhone-to-iPhone video calling. Incidentally, FaceTime also represents the biggest threat Skype has ever encountered.

FaceTime is set to catapult VoIP straight into mainstream mobile devices, using IETF-approved open standards SIP and RTP. Apple has promised to make their extensions open as well. When that happens, FaceTime will proliferate on applications and devices other than the iPhone. Skype, meanwhile, has let innovation stagnate around an entrenched, but proprietary protocol. The leverage they hold in the protocol is about to be eliminated.

They know it too. Let’s look at the initial statements given in response given to the “open” question:

Is SkypeKit ‘open’? What will you restrict?
The topic of openness is often debated and its definition can mean different things to different people. For starters, we believe in an open Internet and open standards.

Next time, just answer “no.” If you believe in open standards, back it up by providing protocol specifications. At this point, it’s tough for me to look at what Skype is offering and see it as the future of communications. Open standards have marched forward, while Skype has stood still.


Lonna Hanson
June 22, 2010 at 1:40 PM

I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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