Thursday, December 23, 2010

Skype Outage

If you are reading this article, probably you've been one of the million users who have been surprised with the absence of their favorite service since yesterday. The Skype outage should have been quite unpleasant for a huge number of people around the world but at the same time for the Skype company itself.

For me, it has always been strange how the vast majority of people easily change their taste and how people embrace even unnecessary new stuff. Do you still remember ICQ? A friend of mine has told me recently that he is not using ICQ anymore because everyone he knows is already on Skype. Of course, I have been watching myself this unneeded but understandable trend since a long time. And I have somehow expected that such a Skype outage or something like it could happen. But whether it is also the beginning of the end for Skype?

So, Skype is a great piece of software... for people that want to talk between each other. But the truth is there are probably several times more folks using it just for chatting when there are a lot of other instant messengers offering a better service for such a purpose. I can understand the users (it's more convenient to have everything in one place instead of using several similar software programs). And I can also understand the company - every company wants to have more users. But does it always worth?

At least until now, Skype does not seem very profitable software. Sure, I have also been wondering why eBay has bought it. And I haven't found the right answer yet. It seems that eBay also haven't been able to found the answer...

Anyway, for whatever reason everybody uses Skype. Probably, there are lots of people that do not know some facts about it. And these facts are not very good... The first one is that Skype does not use some central server to do all of the job. It uses the computers of its users to distribute the load of serving millions of people. Of course, this lowers the performance of your machine. Maybe you have already noticed it.

A second thing and probably related to the first one is that the messages you send to offline contacts of yours are practically not delivered until you and the recipient of the message are both online simultaneously. This means, it could happen and it happens quite a lot that some of your messages are not delivered for days (although you and your recipient could have been online multiple times during that period of time but never simultaneously). Now, this is really unpleasant.

Many people are using Skype without knowing about these "features" and without using it for live talking purpose. At the end, in Skype's case, more users could mean more trouble without more profit. And I think, there is some truth in such a statement.

So, the Skype outage will most likely stay in the past and the normal work will be restored for the time being. But having in mind that the company is not quite profitable and that as a result of the recent Skype outage more money would be probably invested in order to decrease the risk of this decentralized distribution of the working nodes, maybe the company's future is not so bright. And there is another peril for Skype coming from Facebook that pretty much could take a lot of Skype users away, the same way Skype has taken away users from ICQ. The time will show how Skype will continue its lifecycle and meanwhile, you have in mind not to grab every new and fancy thing showing itself on the horizon.

And by the way, Facebook is one of the most user unfriendly phenomena out there. But then again, people are strange...

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Skype is closed source proprietary code so they can try to make money. Could they make money and be open source? Probably, but not as much. All the big players are doing these types of services, voice, chat, video and most do more than skype, by having some kind of asynchronus message system aka e-mail. I agree that facebook's GUI is very mysterious to the point of it seeming intentional about confusing the user to keep them logged on and engaged longer. Google offering free, USA phone numbers and calls from the gmail interface is potentially a skype killer. Skype should be criticized for their unrealistic approach to their cloud architechture and dishonest hidden use of people's computers as supernodes. In the end it won't matter how many users they have as you have said, since people will jump ship for lower cost or free similar services over time they will loose customers. Google has the power and money to make it all work and be supported through advertising.

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