Death Knell of Skype?


Instant Messaging has come a long way from the days of AOL and ICQ.  Instant Messaging is deeply embedded in our work and personal experiences.   It is the glue that keeps the team together.  It is the connection between distant college students and family, friends and more than friends.

Skype rose to eminence through its integration with VOIP, video conferencing and for many its ability to ensure privacy on the frontiers of the NET.  At its zenith, Skyping became a verb in the lexicon of technology.

Microsoft's acquisition of Skype has followed the expectation of the cynics.   "They will kill it".  "They will force it into their world and it will lose its value".

As one Googles Skype out in the world, it appears the cynics were on the mark.  Skype text traffic (which at one time, encrypted all text traffic) is no longer guaranteed as secure.  Skype had been a true peer-to-peer client providing the basis for the high level of security.  Now, all sessions are managed through Microsoft Servers.  This fundamental change in architecture has been the un-raveling of Skype's success.  In this age of NSA revelations and a focus on privacy, The Skype platform is sliding backwards in personal security.  Since the change in architecture, messages have been bouncing between multiple clients as Microsoft attempts to sync the conversations between the clients. This has led to multiple issues confounding users.

The death knell of Skype however, comes from a fairly innocuous corner of the landscape; the Mobile worker.  While the Skype Desktop client remains relatively stable (some will argue otherwise citing problematic changes in the UI). The mobile client remains vastly unusable.  In both the IOS and Android environments, the online status/connectivity is not maintained when Skype is not the focus application.  In short, you chat with someone, then proceed to open up a browser after a short period of time, you will "drop off" line to anyone looking for you.  Even though, you have not closed or signed off of the application.
The present workaround is to have a perpetual desktop client running at some location that will persist your status.  However, randomly, the desktop client will receive an instant message, while it is not synced to the mobile client.  The work around for that is to maintain an RDC session to occasional check that your messages are in sync. In short, it is the mother of all workarounds.

The most recent announcement from Microsoft on this subject is that they will provide a switch where the messages would be only delivered to the "active" machine. This potentially, would stop the work around from being effective.

Skype is the only messaging platform that has this issue.  Google Hangouts is able to persist the status.  While both major mobile OS's (Android and IOS) have challenges on the multi-tasking front, it is incumbent that Microsoft move quickly to remedy the long-standing issue.  The next generation of OS releases is due this fall with IOS 8 and Android L.  Both are rumored to bring a new slate of technologies to address multi-tasking.

Microsoft's clock is running out.





About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.