A walk with the Skype VoIP client


Article from Issue 63/2006

The free but proprietary Skype is a popular calling option.

If you use Voice-over-IP (VoIP), you are probably familiar with the feeling that the world just keeps shrinking. Calling a friend in Japan cost a fortune just a few years ago, but thanks to VoIP, you can now call remote corners of the globe for free, and without sacrificing voice quality – assuming you have a computer with a broadband Internet connection. VoIP technology is putting a lot of pressure on the telcos. Niklas Zennström, the inventor of the Skype [1] VoIP client, recently stated in a Spiegel Online interview that Vodafone is trying to prevent wireless high-speed Skype access to the Internet. This is unlikely to faze Niklas Zennström: his free client is currently storming the desktops – Skype is easy to install and easy to use, and it offers usable voice quality. Of course, some critics have taken aim at Skype: the program is closed source, so you have trust the company’s promises when it comes to security. And the client uses a closed, proprietary protocol, rather than keeping to known VoIP standards, at least at the present time. Does this make Skype a bad thing?

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