puts out another IM/voice Skype alternative already launched PhoneGaim last fall. Now they are launching another Skype-like application called Gizmo. In their newsletter titled Skype Bad, Gizmo Good they hammer Skype:

At a recent conference, a Skype founder suggested “regulating the incumbents” to force others to carry Skype calls. Skype calls go over the public Internet, but are often carried on telephone company wiring (DSL) which Skype is worried could be configured to block their calls. They are proposing that the government should step in and demand that those telephone company networks carry Skype calls.

Meanwhile, Skype is refusing to carry anyone else’s calls on their own phone system. They are engaging in exact behavior – they are worried about others trying. Skype can’t have it both ways. If Skype wants to lock others out of their system, shouldn’t the telephone companies have the same right also? really stresses the open standard and interoperability aspects of Gizmo and for my part, I couldn’t agree more.

They do say “Gizmo matches Skype’s features plus adds some neat ones” and I’m not sure I’d go that far yet. The app does look really good on Mac OS X and is perhaps the best looking Voice/IM app I’ve seen, especially one that supports SIP. The first thing I noticed missing in Gizmo was a “Find People” option to find people on the network. Without that, the “nobody to talk to problem” (the fax problem) smacks one in the face right away. I don’t think Gizmo matches Skype’s built-in multi-chat and conferencing capabilities yet either. I’m sure Skype aficionados will find many things that Gizmo won’t do yet.

The main limitation for Skype users of course is that Gizmo doesn’t interoperate with Skype. You cannot call your Skype buddies. Now you and I know that what is really going on is that Skype is the one that doesn’t interoperate. Other services interoperate with each other: FWD, SIPphone, thousands of smaller services, businesses, universities, and many other net calling communities. Only Skype has elected not to interoperate. So in fact, Gizmo interoperates with any service, PBX, or network using SIP, i.e. every service out there except Skype. But the business reality is that no matter what other features any Skype-like Gizmo has, lacking interoperabiluty with Skype will be a real barrier to adoption. And of course it will always appear to be the other guy’s fault. Skype always seems to get away Scot free with the community.

I wish Gizmo well though, and I hope they attract millions of users. I certainly hope the populace will wake up and move to an open-standards based platform (or at least that the SIP user-base grows enough that Skype users eventually demand that Skype interoperate).

8 comments for “ puts out another IM/voice Skype alternative

  1. David,
    Vonage doesn’t operate with Skype (unless it is via the PSTN) and similarly with Gizmo. All the mobile operators have the same approach a walled garden.

    If Skype would sell me a SIP number and thus the interoperability you suggest, I’d pay just like I do for SkypeIn. I want to be more connected not less. It will be about the client or combinations of clients in the end depending on form factors etc.

    The most powerful new thing in Gizmo today is the easy power to record the call. I know people that will switch from Skype for that. They need the records of their calls to manage their business.

    It’s not much to make users tip to another client. Skype is on a hairy edge and their innovation has slowed and their strategy is "messy" at the moment.

    Let’s get Gizmo open source and with an open API. Then let it rip. Guess that is n’t possible.

  2. Just run both programs at once until you can manage a transition. Or never transition at all…

  3. Stuart, I agree.

    In terms of Vonage and mobile operators, they are essentially walled gardens (although Vonage peered for a while).

    However, essentially all the Free SIP providers are interoperable as well as the project, many universities, and business PBXs,, and many other networks. Skype doesn’t peer with any of them.

    Specifically, among the free P2P calling services, only Skype refuses to interoperate. FWD, SIPphone, EarthLink. and the rest all support and encourage it.

    I don’t think it’s impossible to imagine Gizmo open-source. There might be some restrictions, but I’d bet Mr. Robertson could be pursuaded, with the right business-case.

  4. I wonder which SIP draft/standard are they using? Its ok that Gizmo is based on SIP but there aren’t any viable/standardized SIP drafts out there? Hence interoperability with other SIP implementations is a bit difficult.

    Any idea which SIP draft(s)/rfc(s) is Gizmo based on?

  5. Okay I am a 64bit linux user, so Skype isnt really an option for me. But after reading about Gizmo, Skype is history anyway. Regarding the strategy being messy. This is to be expected from a company that 1. Is closed-source. 2. Doesn’t make their software themselves, but has it made by "secret" coders in latvia and the Skype people "only" doing the hyping and the making the project decissions themselves.

  6. Check out this coool SIP based collobaration product from Damaka ( They recently released SIP based Peer to Peer Video and Custom Picture last week.

    Damaka ( does Audio calls, Audio CONFERENCE (nobody in the industry does conference), Instant Message, SMS, Video Calls, Voice Mail, Custom Pictures, and Encrypted Signaling and Media and they do all this truly Peer to Peer (P2P) without any need of any servers in the middle to store your voice mails or pictures.

    Check it out.

  7. I looked at damaka… Darn, so they are not available on the Mac yet… that sucks. But that’s OK, because I have the cheapest phone phone system available.. Using incoming from voicepulse $11/month for a number in any of 18 countries. And viopStunt for outgoling, I can call 18 countries for FREE… They (voipStunt) do have restrictions, and they are not very willing to tell you what they are, and they require a $10 deposit to start service, but won’t take any of this money unless you go over their UNKNOWN quota. Calls and mail to them is not possible. They do have a forms page, but sending any questions to them will NOT solicit a response.

    I’m running Asterisk on my G4 Mac. Using the IAX card from Diguim (It’s only $70). So for $11 month, I get a home number – it looks, feels and smells just like a normal POTS phone… only thing though, is the ring is generated locally. Prolly comes from the Diguim card. Plus I get free calling to 18 countries. Even Turky and China calls are now free.


  8. I’ve heard that some of these "free" VoIP services have expiration times on the money you put into the account. I read some terms that seemed to indicate some of them expire the funds every 90 days, and require a minimum, so really they are "charging" $10 every 90 days, at a minimum (or whatever their minimums and expirations periods are). Have you run into that?

    I wouldn’t say a Voicepulse VoIP DID is *exactly* like a POTS line. You still won’t have service when the net is down or if the power goes out; and you have no 911 (and no 411, no 511 etc.), no listing in the local phone directory and so on

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