Skype benefits and drawbacks

Some quick notes for an upcoming interview.

Benefits

  • free voice calls between Skype users
  • easy multi-person conferencing (up to 50, depending on bandwidth)
  • multi-platform -- works on Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • first IM client for many users who use voice feature first
  • easy file sharing
  • can have "real" phone numbers in many locations
  • can also use video (various solutions, Windows only for now)
  • Skype on your phone -- Microsoft PocketPC has a Skype client, EQO is new and works on Symbian Series 60 and other Java capable phones (client currently requires Windows on desktop)

Disclaimer: EQO is a local Vancouver company that I've met with, and my company Bryght powers their online community forums. They're also the only mobile app other than ShoZu that made my jaw drop (well, until I found out about the desktop client requirement...boo!).

Drawbacks

  • have to have Skype to communicate (or pay for SkypeOut)
  • built on a closed network, closed protocols (as opposed to open standards like SIP or JINGLE)
  • computers on open networks might be used as a SuperNode, consuming lots of bandwidth
  • Skype (now bought by Ebay) is the only provider of the service

Other forward looking options include click-to-buy or click-to-access solutions -- use your Skype ID and the client to pay for online goods and services, including restricted access to online content -- enter your Skype ID into a web form, get messaged with a special code, complete a transaction, receive an access code -- voila! instant online access. Note: this is of course possible with any IM service or even SMS, and Jabber is doing this today. In many ways, Skype is JAIS -- Just Another Identity Store -- that happens to have VoIP/IM/etc. built on top of it as an application.

Project Gizmo is likely the best open competitor to Skype, although GoogleTalk needs watching, especially if they federate/interoperate with both iChat and AOL instant messenger. Yes, yet more identity stores....once username AT domain.com "just works", we will be free to pick whatever client app we like.