“Skype is open” argument – not even wrong

I won’t waste a lot of bits on this.  The case of Skype being open can be rejected immediately and indisputably with the simple fact that there is no published IP network specification for communicating with the service.  Done.  Nothing to see here.  Move along please.

What? You’re still here? Okay. Let’s take an example of why it settles the matter. A given VoIP service can offer customers free accounts that include the ability to talk to other networks, including MSN, Yahoo!, Gtalk, and myriad SIP, or Asterisk for that matter, as examples.  Note that these services span protocols.  This is not a protocol war – the only protocol they share is IP, so if you call that a “protocol war” then welcome to 1982. Gateways may be required to pass calls between two services because they internally use different protocols – but such gateways are technically possible (and do exist in fact) because there are published and supported protocols for interaction. Skype is excluded from this list because they do not offer any such published network protocol.

The argument asserts that Skype is open because Skype supports “the E.164 namespace (i.e. telephone numbers).” While it’s true, Skype supports interconnect to the old telephone network, that fact still excludes Skype from the list above. A given VoIP service cannot offer customers free connectivity to Skype users because doing so incurs real costs to leave the IP network and hop over to the “e.164 namespace.”  That VoIP service can offer their customers the ability to reach the MSN, Yahoo!, Gtalk, and other namespaces without incurring those costs.  If e.164 makes Skype open, it makes it no more open than Ma Bell, and not “open” in any practical way.

He says:

With Gizmo5 you cannot build a true peer because the source code is not available.

This is a classic red herring. We’ve gone from “open” to “open-source.”  Nobody is asking Skype to support a specific protocol or to allow a comeptitor to be a “true peer” on their network (whatever that means, on a given day).  We’re talking about a published network interface for interconnect, specifying whatever protocol Skype wishes to expose.  If such a protocol spec existed, trust me, people would use it – and Skype users (and Skype themselves) would benefit.

Which brings me to this gem:

There is little consumer demand for the additional support of the SIP URI space.

Someone has a fantastically powerful set of rose colored glasses. Try these searches: skype sip address or skype sip gateway for example. And again, this is really a red herring too because publsihing an open network interface/protocol and “support for the SIP URI space” are not the same thing. While I think supporting SIP would be a good idea for Skype, for their own sake, and Stuart Henshall has proposed many times some great ways Skype could make money offering that, I don’t really care what protocol they offer. SIP would be nice, but hey, open is open. As long as they support some published network spec, just as Yahoo!, MSN, Gtalk, SIP, and Asterisk do, I’ll let them be called “open” – until then, it’s a line of total BS.  If Skype wishes ro remain closed, fine, but don’t invent new ways to define “open” just so you can claim they aren’t closed.

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