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Om On Skype Got Me Thinking, Remembering, Realizing

Back in the heydey of VoIP, when Skype (former client via Skype Store and In Store Solutions) was fighting AOL's AIM, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, Gizmo, GrandCentral (former client) Vonage and more, we all used to write about their latest developments because Skype was the disrupter.  Skype Journal's Phil Wolfe and Jim Courtney, Alec Saunders, Jeff Pulver or his pals Carl Ford and others at VON, along with pal Om Malik on his blog GigaOm, Rich Tehrani , Erik Lagerway, Martin Geddes, James Enck and I, plus others would report, compare what each other had written, try to beat each other to the punch. 

Skype's PR team would reach out and pre-brief us, and do their best to not only tell us what was up, but often ask our impressions before they put the news out. Not anymore, and not since Microsoft acquired Skype. Beyond the app suffering more and more each year, the outreach died. Now Microsoft makes updates to Skype (often for the worse) and just makes an announcement, focusing on the likes of Reuters or Bloomberg, and not sharing the news with those who really know. 

That's why I read with laughter and sorrow, what Om had to say today.

I say laughter, because the Skype Om and I loved, is not the Skype we know and try to use today. Skype was for many years my own company's intercom system. It didn't matter where any of my employees or consultants were, or where I was, it was the link that kept us together. Skype was also how I reached other bloggers, and how they reached me. We shared our posts, we asked for Link Love in the hopes of getting some social juice behind our posts.

We also talked on Skype, from anywhere to anyone. It was something special. And then it went to Microsoft and everything changed.

For starters, Skype's P2P architecture and encryption were pretty much the gold standard for both. Skype had this great ability getting around just about any firewall.  Skype also pushed the envelope when it came to voice quality, licensing or developing the best voice codecs around. But most of all Skype's user interface was simple and elegant. You looked up someone's name. You clicked. You connected. Your history was easy to use. Text messaging eventually stayed persistent across devices but most of all Skype gave you a consistent user experience, on desktop or mobile device.

I often remark in the wine world that when a brand is sold to Constellation, the wine is no longer what you grew up loving the next vintage out. In the case of Skype it's the same thing. What we loved is not what we have today.

What happened? Microsoft post purchase decided Skype was better to be like Lync than different. They first ripped out the P2P, JOLTID based network architecture we all grew up loving in favor of a more SIP based design. The first thing to go was the locked down encryption, then the firewall traversal. Then the quality on Skype In and Out dropped. Then the UI. Then the became like a mobile operator supplied Android handset. They started addin in things that no one wanted. Oh, and they also messed with the interface so often, it became impossible for people to stay current. One team member of mine resorted to Skype out forwarding to his mobile phone to make answering calls easy again. 

To say confusion reigned at Microsoft around Skype is an understatement. Beyond the product we know as Skype being name only, many of the people who built the product left as soon as they could. If they weren't let go. 

Om's piece is spot on and maybe it's time for everyone who uses Skype to realize, like Yahoo Messenger and AIM, the time has come to retire it, and use other services that are better built for today. 

Comments

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cfriedman

Andy,
did not realize the encryption was totally decimated; I too felt skype was really great and has gotten progressively more klugdy. That said I still use it and feel it sad that the giant Microsoft really does not beef this up and make it truly a SMB messaging hub, but alas I dont know what else to simply replace and have enough for disparate contacts. Keep the good work up.

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