Skype Journal Test

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

garbled skies

garbled skies by you.

"Report from 40,000 ft on AA's new WiFi service: It's very fast (YouTube works great) but Skype is blocked (calls are garbled)." - Philip Kaplan

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Monday, October 20, 2008

oom pah pah

pine creek high school band by you.

by David Yack

(is this a good thing?)

(the world is getting smaller)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

but skype is working

My sister can't use her browser, but Skype is working. She gets a message saying the firewall may be blocking http, https, and ftp. Help?

by Eva

(how cool is that? skype finds a way)

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wishlist: sharable emoticon sets

I just told the plot of Brokeback Mountain using Skype emoticons. Some undocumented instances were included.

Clearly we need larger, more varied, more topic-specific visual vocabularies. James Bridle is a visual guy and I'm sure he could have come up with emoticons specific to cowboy romance cinema. The better to share stories with friends.

For me, I sooo want a bunch of Jewish emoticons, like: 


These have meaning for me, are part of my social vocabulary. Glad to provide translations if anyone cares.

But this list is specific to me and my tribe.

It would be enormous fun to have additional emoticon sets to freely, easily and safely share and trade. If you don't have a set, you see the text. If you do, you see the art. Inherently viral, social, meaningful.

And fun.

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Follow Phil Wolff on Twitter or FriendFeed or on Skype.
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Plip! Ploop! Nreeeerrrr

The sounds Skype makes are amazing. They just... make me soo happy. Shweeeeewwww- woop. Plip! Ploop! Nreeeeerrrr..

by casi

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Friday, October 17, 2008


wow. something goes here

is there a setting for this?

feeling uncomfortable. hearing inlaws on Skype.

by totally_anon

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Hello Apple! IPEVO diversifies

Speakerphones. I love 'em. I'm using one from IPEVO now.

trio-ichat-fronttrio-ichat-sidetrio-ichat-backSwing by your local Apple store and you'll find IPEVO's new TR-10 for iChat in the speaker section.

It's the TR-10 for Skype but with reprinted buttons and software for your Mac. IPEVO's software lets you control iChat from the trio and record your iChat calls. $79.90 MSRP.

Gee. Apple? For a company created to build products for Skype in North America?

Skype hasn't promoted IPEVO's seven Skype-integrated products much.

  • Only occasional referrals from to
  • Skype certification which lets IPEVO put a Skype logo/badge on their boxes, for which IPEVO pays a hefty royalty.
  • Skype helped some hardware partners find some shelf space in Wal-Marts for the last two years, but not IPEVO.
  • It's only been this year that Skype is finally becoming a consumer brand name in the US and Canada.

I can't find IPEVO in the online Skype store.

Apple, on the other hand, has stores. These are shots of the merchandise on Cupertino and New York City shelves. 

IPEVO TR-10 at Apple Stores IPEVO TR-10 at Apple Stores

Skype had the potential for a large and healthy hardware ecosystem. Sadly, hardware partners from Skype's early days have burned through so much cash, talent and goodwill, that most have walked away from Skype.

The few remaining, like IPEVO, are eager to partner with companies that help them demonstrate design leadership or even simple distribution support. They may love Skype, but relationships are two-way streets.

trio-ichat-oblique by you.

From the spec sheet:

Package Content

Dimensions / Weight

  • Size: 15.1x4.2x3.7cm (LxWxH)
  • Weight: 140g


  • White

Control Buttons

  • iChat window launch
  • Dial / Answer
  • Cancel / Hang up
  • MIC mute
  • Volume control
  • Record / Pause
  • Stop record
  • Mode switch

LED Indicators

  • Green Active LED to indicate: incoming call, outgoing call, call in
  • Red Active LED to indicate: microphone mute
  • Green Power LED to indicate: power on/off
  • Red Record LED to indicate: record on/off/pause
  • Green Switch LED to indicate: speaker / handset mode

Audio Performance

  • Microphone Voice Sampling Rate: (UPDATED 17-October-2008)
    • Speakerphone: 8KHz
    • Handset (holding up to your ear): 16Khz
  • Communication: Full Duplex
  • Echo cancellation: up to 60dB
  • Support AGC (auto gain control) function

Electrical Specifications

  • Operating Voltage: 4.5V ~ 5.5V
  • Magnetic Speaker
    • Coil Resistance: 4 +/- 0.6 Ohm
    • Sound Pressure Level: 80 dBSPL@0.5m
  • Condenser Microphone
    • Omni directional
    • Sensitivity: -36 +/- 3 dB
  • Receiver
    • Sensitivity: 90 dBA
    • Frequency response: 180~7Hz

Hardware Description

  • USB 2.0 compatible
  • Internal omni microphone
  • 4Ω 2W speaker
  • Power from USB

System Requirements

  • Microsoft Windows XP and Vista (32-bit)
  • Mac OS X 10.4 up
  • 400MHz processor
  • 128MB RAM
  • 40MB free hard disk space
  • USB port
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Broadband Internet connection (DSL, Cable Modem…, etc)

Regulatory Compliance

  • FCC
  • CE
  • RoHs

See also:

Photo credits: IPEVO.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

TOM-Skype Breach: The Citizen Lab

This is the second of four posts resulting from an interview with Nart Villeneuve, principle investigator of the Citizen Lab report "Breaching Trust".

After discussing the report itself and some of the follow up activity, we went on to talk about The Citizen Lab, its mission and its activities. From their own website they are "focusing on advanced research and development at the intersection of digital media and world civic politics". Nart described their activity as research on the politics of technology.
Under the leadership of Professor Ronald Diebert, their activities are carried out by graduate students with an undergraduate degree in either computer science or political science who join the lab to build up expertise in the other discipline while carrying out their research. They explore issues using their strong understanding of technology to "lift the hood" behind various politically and/or economically motivated intervention of web-based information exchange by governments and other agencies.
Assisted by a worldwide network of volunteers and a check list of relevant websites, they can develop a sense of the content that governments are censoring. According to Nart, all governments do some form of surveillance but definitely not to equal levels of resulting actions. At one extreme one finds outright blocking of content but the UAE has economic motivation to block Skype to protect a local communications monopoly. Apparently the Saudis are most interested in blocking porn. China obviously allows "uncensored" content to pass through but we are aware that Skype Journal is often blocked.
They will look at filtering techniques used by various countries, the type of content being blocked and try to determine the "local" government's policy environment in which filtering is taking place. At this point in time most filtering addresses websites but gradually some countries are moving into screening applications (as we have seen with TOM-Skype). There is also "social filtering" censorship activity that involves blocking of porn, drugs and gambling.
At this point companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, are modifying their products to address various "local" issues. For instance, Google has modified their process for enquiries from designated countries to "pre-filter" results delivered from their own servers in the U.S.. But then they put out a notification for "filtered" results with the wording for some search results: "to comply with local law, some results are not displayed". On the other hand Google will not offer GMail accounts with a ".cn" domain name and does not make Blogger available in China.
The Citizen Lab also participates in a broader effort to develop guidelines for Internet companies operating in China. But, given that has much broader implications, it will be the subject of another post.
Next post: Answers to Phil's Questions

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critical mass

okay i have 2 new ppl on skype!! if i can get 15.ppl i wont delete account

by Malena

(how many friends must switch to make a new network worthwhile?)

(what is the frequency distribution of buddy list size? how does that distribution vary by duration of Skype experience? by activity?)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Skype Accounts Drive Calling Growth

New Accounts Drive Calling Growth


The blue line (top left) is quarterly account creation.

The red line (bottom left) shows what people do with accounts. 

Skype's language from today's 2008 Q3 eBay Investor Conference Call.

"Skype surpassed 13 million concurrent users at certain peak times."

13 million – congratulations Skype!, Skype Journal, 15 September 2008.

"Skype-to-Skype minutes reached nearly 16 billion, a 63% increase year over year."

A new record.

From the Form 8-K filed Oct 15, 2008

"Skype continued its robust growth trajectory,
reporting $143 million in revenue for the quarter,
representing 46% year over year growth."

$572 million per year run rate. With about 500 employees. 

"Skype added 32 million registered users in the quarter,
ending the period with more than 370 million registered users around the world."

Skype added 25-35 million new users every quarter for two years. This quarter is not exceptional.

Skype doesn't report account abandonment, so we have no direct measure of user churn. 

"In addition to growing its user base, Skype is focused on product strategies to enhance customer engagement."

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sprint being uncooperative

RT @RoMustGo Anyone use Skype? May need to start here for calls to Venezuela. Sprint being very uncooperative right now. ...

by Leslie Wilkinson

(Using the Internet as alternative to POTS, mobile service, and roaming charges)

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Follow Phil Wolff on Twitter or FriendFeed or on Skype.
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VAPPS leaves freemium for HiDef Conferencing

10-15-2008 8-26-55 AM hsc-home-rawChatted with Ben Lilienthal, CEO and founder of VAPPS, this morning.

Skype Journal: Saw you turned off HiGhspeEdconferencing.

Ben Lilienthal: Yes, we are in the process of shutting down In reality, we stopped operating this service almost a year ago when we launched the 2nd iteration of it --

10-15-2008 8-26-55 AM hsc-home-cropped

SJ. HiGhspeEdconferencing was novel for its Skype integration when you launched it. How has the world of conferencing changed since then?

HighSpeed was the first integrated Skype and Phone conferencing service. replaced it and is the first and only wideband, fixed price, better than PSTN sound quality conference calling service in the world!!!

Q. What was HighSpeedConferencing's business model? How is it different than HiDefConferencing?

With the shutdown of Skypecasts last month, we more than doubled the minutes on the service and the number of registered users. Highspeedconferencing relied on payments from rural LECs to generate revenue. is targeted squarely at the SMB market which currently spends over $1billion/year on audio conferencing services. That segment of the market is projected to grow to over $2bn in the next five years. is the only service in the world that offers fixed price, unlimited minutes plans for Small and Medium sized businesses

Q. Will Skype for Asterisk lower barriers to entry for voice conferencing?

We don't compete with free. If people are going to use free services there are plenty available within Skype itself for conferencing.

Q. How is the shocking news about our changing world economy affecting your plans?

Collaboration, especially the type of collaboration that we have been working on for the last 5 years, which is a product of fearless innovation and delivers high quality for lower costs just happens to be a counter-cyclical business.

In other words, as the economy does worse, does better.

People still need to collaborate but they are looking for low-cost, innovative solutions such as to replace getting on airplanes, and staying in hotels.

Q. I use HiDefConferencing for weekly meetings of What are three features we're probably not using that we should try?

Three features you should use and probably don't are recording, hand raising and web controls.

Also, we will be launching a new UI later this month to streamline the scheduling and invitation process.

See also on Skype Journal:

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Skype 4.0 Beta 2 for Windows build 168

Minor update. Download page.

Version File size 24 MB. Beta release. Release date: October 15, 2008. File name: SkypeSetup-Beta.exe. Update to Extras Manager, 22 bugfixes.

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TOM-Skype Breach: Meeting the Primary Investigator

This is the first of four posts resulting from an interview with Nart Villeneuve, principle investigator of the Citizen Lab report "Breaching Trust".

Last Tuesday afternoon I returned to a University of Toronto building I had last visited in its role as an engineering students' residence in the mid-1960's. Abandoned as a residence in the 1980's, the building was restored in the late 1990's to house the Munk Centre for International Studies, when the university's Centre for International Studies was designated as a strategic priority for future growth. In the basement of the former Devonshire Place South House, I found the Citizen Lab, "an interdisciplinary laboratory focusing on advanced research and development at the intersection of digital media and world civic politics".

I spent 90 minutes with Nart Villeneuve, the PhD student and Psiphon Fellow, who was the principle investigator resulting in the Citizen Lab's recently published "Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices of China's TOM-Skype platform". We covered a wide range of issues related to this report, from the initial contact with New York Times through to the follow up activities as a result of the report's release. We also discussed the broader mission of the Citizen Lab and some recommendations for how Skype should address the challenge of participating in the China market while making all parties aware that their conversation activity may be tracked.

Key points about the report and the follow up activity:

  • A major issue to address in dealing with the media has been the confusion resulting because there is a need to separate out the security breach that allowed Nart to gather the data he has gathered and the functionality of the TOM-Skype servers resulting in the capture and logging of chat conversations and Skype calling activity. (There was no evidence of capturing voice calls themselves).
  • As a result of reporting this breach prior to release of the document to New York Times, the security breach itself has been closed but there is no evidence that the actual information capture activity has ceased. Nart has been checking periodically to confirm that the security breach remains closed.
  • There was a period of several hours between finally establishing contact with someone at Skype who could initiate action to address the security breach and the final close down of the breach. During this time Nart observed blocking of read access to the directories but since he knew the file names he was still able to follow a reconfiguration of the web servers, removal of sensitive files, such as an encryption key, and disappearance of the log files such that they were not accessible.
  • While they have captured a significant quantity of call log data going back a year, they are being careful not to expose any of the detailed information which comprised both chat message logs and what amounts to call detail records for voice calls; more details are in the report itself. Basically they don't want to compromise anyone individually.
  • While the log files are still under analysis, they have been encrypted while he continues to mine them for any additional information they may expose. Eventually it is his intention to destroy even these files.
  • Messages were about 40% Chinese, 60% English with a small smattering of other languages.
  • While it would be very difficult to reconstruct an entire conversation thread, as only each individual message was logged with no ready reference to other messages within the thread, they could build social graphs of conversing parties.
  • There are at least two versions of the TOM-Skype client: a normal version and a second version with additional features such as a Baidu Toolbar; however, the promote.dll module in this can trigger off anti-virus scanners such as Norton.
  • Other evidence that the servers had been compromised was the discovery that the servers were hosting "pirate" movies and had the appropriate software to support Bit Torrent transfers.
Nart had three definite recommendations for Skype; we also covered the broader issue of global enterprises doing business in China. These will be covered in future posts.

Next post: The Citizen Lab: Its broader mission and findings.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

eBay Q3-2008 Financial Conference Call

Skype Journal Investor Relations Chat Room logoWednesday is eBay's Q3 2008 Earnings Call. October 15, 2008 at 2:00 PM PT.

Join us in Skype Journal's Investor Relations Chat. eBay usually reports Skype activity and high level financials.

Has the weak dollar and world economic anxiety affected eBay buyers and sellers?

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more sister

I talk to my sister more than ever now that she lives in the UK and has skype. Like, 100 times more frequently.
by Kurtado
(the power of presence, convenience, affordability, quality to change behavior)
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Follow Phil Wolff on Twitter or FriendFeed or on Skype.
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Blackberry Bold: Challenged to Deliver on Its Full Potential

Over the past five weeks I have had the opportunity to work with the Blackberry Bold on the Rogers network, including a week in California where I used it on AT&T's network. While it has provided significant performance improvements over my previous 8820 and has several applications that just are not available for the iPhone, I still had the feeling I was running with late beta stage or release candidate firmware. The availability of a new firmware release over the past weekend has changed that feeling. But its U.S. release on AT&T has also been dogged by 3G network robustness issues.

Let me put some of these issues in perspective, incorporating my own experience with the Bold on both networks.

There are two major technical issues related to the Bold:

  • Network robustness issues at AT&T
  • Firmware issues that have possibly resulted in suspension of deliveries at Orange (and reports of inventory shortages at other carriers)
First, to cover the AT&T network robustness issues:
  • as reported in RIM's second-quarter report, 60 carriers in 29 countries have launched the Bold, including Canada where I've had a Bold running on Rogers for the past five weeks.
  • several recent news reports have reported on network robustness issues as a contributor to the delayed launch on AT&T: Globe and Mail, TMCNet, CrunchGear
  • a personal indicator: on a recent trip to California both my Blackberry Bold and iPhone 3G found an "EDGE" signal on AT&T more often than it found a 3G signal (in spite of setting the Bold to only operate on 3G). On the Rogers network I find the "3G" signal (in supported urban areas, such as Toronto and Montreal) more than 95 percent of the time.
I have to conclude, combining these issues, that the AT&T network robustness issues are real and serve as a threat to RIM's ability to penetrate the U.S. market via the Bold. On the other hand the pending launch of Blackberry Storm at Verizon may become RIM's primary route to to the U.S. market for their 3G smartphones, given Verizon's reputation for, and experience with, 3G networks along with their extensive customer base. (Why else would several of my U.S.-based blogging colleagues attending the recent IT Expo all be running their laptops on Verizon for Internet connectivity with no complaints?)

Five weeks' experience with the Bold tells me about its firmware:

  • It delivers a significant performance improvement relative to the Blackberry 8820 I have been using for the past year. An half-VGA display with over 200 dpi resolution, 3G network speed and 624 Mhz processor speed all contribute.
  • At no time has my experience to date inhibited my ability to carry on my normal mobile-supported business activities. I have had an opportunity to successfully take advantage of new applications such as editing Word documents.
  • The display grows on you; when you find crystal clear small fonts or view Google Maps, you get this "how did they do this?" feeling. As indicated in other reviews, it's stunning. And the supported resolution is a major contributor to my next point.
  • The Bold is definitely a game changer. After my week of traveling to California with the Bold, I realized that I was experiencing a significant change in my mobile device work patterns. I was simply going to the Bold to keep current not only on email (using a strategic combination of both Blackberry Mail and GMail) but also on my Twitter feed, Facebook and Google Reader. I was able to not only read but also edit Word documents. I had lost the anxiety-inflamed urge to fire up my laptop PC to remain "always connected"; One non-technical acquaintance who has had a Bold since the Rogers launch in late August commented to me last weekend "I'm beginning to think my Bold is more powerful than my notebook".
  • At Mobilize 08 I met Google Maps senior product manager Steve Lee who pointed me to a new version of Google Maps for Blackberry which added Street View to the feature set available on Blackberry. While Google Maps itself is an excellent demonstration of both the Bold's display quality and speed, turning on Street View and either moving down a street or rotating around a selected address brings into play both network and processor speeds to dynamically generate high quality images. (While this is a feature that will be included on Android, it is still not available on the iPhone.)
  • Using Blackberry's MediaSync, I can keep my music files updated by syncing with iTunes. But I also found having the trackball mouse a significant benefit when transcribing our interview with Josh Silverman via the media player; basically I was using the Bold as a Dictaphone.
  • Skype chats running in iSkoot can run in background and provide notification when new chat messages appear. Also when my home office broadband was down recently for a neighborhood cable upgrade, I was able to use iSkoot to call into the daily SquawkBox conference call.
  • Performance on WiFi has been excellent; walk into a registered WiFi zone and the Bold picks it up immediately. The actual registration process itself for a WiFi zone could be smoother but otherwise it works as expected.
  • However, the Bold has been by no means perfect. Web pages would sometimes come up slowly; on some sites I would randomly get either the actual PC version of a page or the mobile version of the site. Sites were often stripped down to their basic content, absent of banners and sidebars. YouTube videos would stall with a "buffering" indicator appearing in the display; I was never able to view the complete video. I started to feel this was late beta stage firmware, not quite ready for "Main Street". And then Friday reports appeared that Orange was possibly suspending Blackberry shipments due to software quality issues.
Friday evening I learned that RIM had released new firmware for Blackberry Bold on Rogers. It was described as addressing browser issues, delivering more stability and improving memory management, amongst other issues. I installed it quite seamlessly Saturday morning with the following immediate observations:
  • The browser is much faster at bringing up standard web pages and renders original web pages correctly. Pages with few "feature enhancements" involving "scripts" load as rapidly as on the iPhone; pages with lots of "scripts" do take longer but are correctly and much more rapidly rendered.
  • YouTube videos can now be played to the end. On some videos I encounter a momentary "buffering" delay but they always went to completion. The actual player itself could provide better video quality to achieve the superb quality I have seen on the Bold's display when mpeg movie files are run but a user can readily follow the YouTube video action.
  • After two days' use, using the phone itself only minimally but with lots of web activity over WiFi, my battery is only down to the 40% level whereas with the earlier version I found I had to always do a daily overnight recharge.
Other issues need a few days' use to determine if they have been addressed. But overall this upgraded Bold firmware appears to spell good news for not only Blackberry Bold but also the Blackberry Storm whose major differences involve radio bands supported, slightly larger display resolution and the type of keyboard but otherwise are based on the same underlying operating system, application and browser firmware.

The question that remains here is whether AT&T can fix their network problems in the near future or will the pending launch of Blackberry Storm become the real Blackberry 3G device launch product? For once I am quite happy to be a Rogers customer where they have spent over a year working with 3G technology prior to the Bold's launch and the network performance is "just there".

Bottom line: the Bold allows new user work patterns for mobile smartphones. It significantly reduces or removes the reliance on laptops to keep current with many communications activities, whether Skype Chat, Twitter Feeds or even minor document modification. Its 480 x 320 display makes it easy to read blog posts without ribbon bars. Background processing allows true multi-tasking. If you're in a country where it is available it is worth checking out (especially once any residual firmware issues are resolved; if you're in the U.S., it's worth having the patience to await its release on AT&T or even the Storm's release on Verizon.

Disclosure: the author has held a minuscule number of RIM shares since 1998.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Mikogo: free desktop sharing with Skype

Mikogo spun off in July 2007, from, a Mannheim, Germany, company. Since then, fifty thousand users registered for free desktop sharing.

They publish a Mikogo Skype extra, a small plug-in program, so you can start screen sharing sessions from within Skype, using Skype contacts. Nearly ten thousand downloads of the extra.

People use Mikogo for poker training and other live distance education. Companies use Mikogo for technical support, using the remote controlled desktop and file transfers. Sales people host presentations. Small companies and freelance workers are the early adopters.


  • Up to ten participants in a meeting
  • Switch presenter
  • Access remote keyboard and mouse
  • Pause/resume session
  • Select applications
  • 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption
  • File transfers up to 200 MBs within a session

More features are available for a BeamYourScreen subscription. Up to twenty participants, whiteboard, recording and playback, live support. Their browser viewer is pure dhtml without ActiveX, Java or Flash required.

P.S. The giraffe is named Mikogo too.

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4 generations

About to do a Skype call with 4 generations of my family. I think I should videotape it. My grandfather is 98 and it is his first vid call.

by Sean Moran

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Follow Phil Wolff on Twitter or FriendFeed or on Skype.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monday reading: New PR firm, eduSkype, Emergency dialing, Sex Video, Dating, Multiparty Video

Text 100 became one of Skype's PR firms. Text 100 is a much larger firm than 3 Monkeys Communications, dropped after just five months. Text 100 has presence in North America (new New York office opening last May), EMEA, and APAC (ten years in Japan). They already serve clients eBay, PayPal, Nokia, Cisco, and IBM. via PR Week UK.

Education and music was the topic on the MusTech.Net podcast. Skype's Ian Robin guest starred on last week's show. Distance learning, language instruction, music education, music performance. Ian is an alum of Skype partner Vosky.

Tom Keating's "Vonage slams Skype for not following emergency rules" is a simple and thorough explanation of UK Ofcom's rules, how they apply and don't apply to Skype, who claims what, and where policy conflicts with technology. 

Deadspin's "Kendra Wilkinson Will Skype Your Brains Out" delights in a Playboy Playmate's experience that Skype video is better than phone sex. So that's what all the Skype High Quality Video fuss is about!

Michael Pennington's Wazzum is making turn-key software for dating services. Project "Orange" should launch next month. Key feature? Launching Skype video calls. Saves hosts from paying for video bandwidth.

It's been more than a year since Philippe launched ooVoo's six-way video calling, a year that included an upgrade to high resolution video, Windows only. Apple iChat has had multiparty video for years, Mac only. Meanwhile, Skype just teases...

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Michael Robertson: Use Skype - Go Directly To A Chinese Prison

Reposted with permission from Michael Robertson's blog.

A research firm recently revealed that eBay and TOM are colluding with the Chinese government to spy on users of Skype. Together they monitored user's text chats and stored those containing politically sensitive topics like freedom, democracy, Tibet, opposition to the communist party and Falun Gong. They also track voice call participants. Presumably they turned this data over to the government and it's impossible to track how that data has been used.

“What people have been implicated by their Skype usage and subsequently interrogated, imprisoned or executed?”

If history can be a guide it's logical to assume that the data resulted in prison terms or worse. In 2005, Yahoo was involved in a similar disclosed incident in which it turned over emails to authorities which netted a 10 year prison sentence for a reporter who dared to talk about democracy. I wrote about it when it happened and questioned where one draws the line chasing the almighty dollar (or Yuan). Two years later Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was in front of Congress explaining the situation and apologizing to the mother of the imprisoned.

In response to the revelation of spying on calls and instant messages a spokesman for Skype incredibly stated that Skype is "the most secure forum of publicly available communication." eBay points the finger at their Chinese partner TOM claiming they had "no knowledge or consent" of this privacy breach. This level of compromise requires access to source code which eBay would have had to provide them. Maybe eBay didn't have direct knowledge of these alterations. However no one can deny China's well known efforts to police and censor their citizens net activities which surely eBay executives know about. To provide the source code with no auditing or oversight shows at best a convenient excuse. One wonders how long this would have continued without the whistleblower and how many other countries Skype cooperates with to allow the same spying.

More likely at least some within eBay/Skype knew exactly what TOM was doing and consented because it gave them access to the enormous Chinese market. Its estimated that nearly half of Skype users are from China. This is why Cisco and others design special networking equipment enabling the Chinese government to snoop and lock down their country's net activities. Similar to Skype they are lured by the dollars awaiting any country that cracks the Chinese market.

I would call on eBay to be forthcoming with information on this situation by publicly disclosing details of this situation which will require tough questions of their partner and Chinese government. This would demonstrate that eBay's publicly stated "concern" is more than a press tactic. Specific questions eBay should answer include:

  1. When did this spying start?
  2. What users did it affect?
  3. When specifically did it stop? Has it stopped?
  4. What specific terms were monitored? (Users have a right to know if their messages have been implicated.)
  5. What people have been implicated by their Skype usage and subsequently interrogated, imprisoned or executed?
  6. What steps will be taken to defend these people or get their convictions overturned?
  7. Has previously stored data been deleted? How can users be sure?
  8. What will eBay do to insure that this spying isn't reactivated as soon as the press attention subsides?
  9. What other companies and countries are monitoring Skype communications?
  10. What auditing steps is eBay implementing to make sure this does not happen again?

Let me be clear about Gizmo5's policy and refute Skype's spokesman's claim that Skype is the "most secure". Gizmo5 doesn't spy on calls and messages and we wouldn't give that info to any government. We encrypt calls between Gizmo5 users and have given no one the decrypt key. We would not allow a partner or government to do wholesale monitoring of communications - no matter how many billions of prospective customers they have. If ordered to take action by a government that defies basic Western freedoms we would do it only under threat of imprisonment and the information would then be disclosed in this blog condemning the action and striving to defend any of those adversely impacted. I challenge eBay/Skype to do the same. Defend their users. Defend their brand. Defend freedom.

-- MR

Michael Robertson is an entrepreneur, co-founder of Linspire, SIPphone, and MP3tunes.

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SkypeOut Feature Added to 3's Skype-Enabled Phones

Mobile carrier pioneer 3 has taken another step that reduces costs for mobile calling worldwide from any of the Skype-enabled mobile phone handsets in their offering. Effectively it means that 3's customers can not only make free calls to other Skype contacts but also to any landline and mobile worldwide via an implementation of a SkypeOut type of service at SkypeOut rates. Skype-to-Skype calls remain totally free as well as Skype Instant Messaging activity.

As a result 3's pricing plans and policy covers monthly subscribers and pay-as-you-go customers. For the latter a top-up will now provide ninety days of free Skype access. Most importantly there are no extra charges from 3 for using SkypeOut. And the fair use policy still applies. These plans apply to the two Skypephones as well as several models of both Nokia E-series/N-series phones and Sony Ecrisson phones.

What is 3's motivation to do this?

  • They have no connection charges for Skype-to-Skype calls
  • 3 will receive revenues through Skype's affiliate marketing program or a similar arrangement for SkypeOut calls.
  • It is a key marketing tool for low cost recruiting of customers, building on their previous "Free Skype call" marketing activities.
With the forthcoming launch of Blackberry Bold at 3, similar customer benefits can be obtained using iSkoot, although without carrier support, there may be additional charges to access an iSkoot point-of-presence.

3 continues to pioneer development of business models for the incorporation of Skype into the mobile conversations world. 3's services are available in U.K., Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Hong Kong and Australia.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sequoia Capital to Companies: Think Cash Flow

I won't add much more to Om Malik's truly scary report, Inside Details of Sequoia Capital’s Doomsday Meeting With its Companies.

  • Of the hundreds of companies in Skype's ecosystem (termination suppliers, API developers, embedded hardware, IP licensors, mobile, payment), which ones lack a year's cash in the bank and a positive cashflow?
  • Of those at risk, can Skype help them survive the tough times?
  • As markets get mean, will Skype be able to cheaply buy talent and technology from failing startups and competitors? Who could you look at?
  • How fast can Skype turn Prime, Find/Directory, and Skype for Business services into revenue generators that delight and scale?

Many great little communications companies are not safe. I fully expect the dead pool to be filling up by eComm09 in March as cash flows dry up and founders call it quits.

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Carriers, Apps face off at OpenMobileSummit

OpenMobile_awDATE2badge How open is open? Skype's Jonathan Christensen will be on a panel at the OpenMobileSummit. Open access for apps to carriers is on the menu. 

I'll be there, along with folks from AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, Verizon, Google, Amazon, AOL, Yahoo!, Nokia, RIM, Qualcom, Sun, Symbian, Funambol, Mozilla, Intel, Disney, MTV.

$100 off if you register with "SKYPEJ". The $300 early bird pricing ends Friday midnight.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Skype to FCC: Mobile carriers blocking Skype is proof of closed networks

Skype asked the FCC to support unfettered customer freedom following statements at CTIA's conference last month. CTIA and Sprint retorted with balderdash and Skype's Christopher Libertelli sets them straight in this short, direct letter. Emphasis mine. 

    October 8, 2008

    Electronic Filing

    Chairman Kevin J. Martin
    Federal Communications Commission
    445 12th Street, SW
    12th Street Lobby, TW-A325
    Washington, D.C. 20554

    Re: Ex Parte Presentation; RM-11361

    Dear Chairman Martin:

    Skype Communications S.A.R.L. (“Skype”) responds briefly to CTIA’s letter of September 24th and Sprint Nextel’s letter of September 26th, both of which take issue with Skype’s earlier letter to you regarding the lack of openness of wireless networks. CTIA and Sprint go to great lengths to rebut Skype’s characterization of remarks made at a CTIA conference earlier this month, which Skype viewed as indicative of a hesitant, closed network mentality among wireless operators.

    Rather than prolong an empty debate about whose characterization of remarks at the conference is correct, let me point out that Skype’s application is forbidden, blocked and otherwise interfered with by the largest CTIA members.[1] When CTIA members claim that “the entire Internet is open,” the intended implication is that the entire Internet is open, including to multi-modal Internet communications applications like Skype. The truth of the matter, however, is that, despite their representations to the contrary, applications are blocked even on the most recently-announced advanced handsets.[2] The proof of Skype’s argument is in the conduct of CTIA members, no matter what speeches are made at conferences. If Skype is blocked, the network is not open.

    I also would like to take this opportunity to remind you that CTIA is currently suing the Commission to overturn the very openness rule they now claim to embrace. If the wireless industry is serious about openness, CTIA would immediately withdraw that litigation.

    CTIA attempts to sidestep the fact that its members’ networks are not open by arguing that Skype itself is closed and, apparently, therefore cannot advocate consumer empowerment principles and network openness. To make this point, they cite a blog post by Mr. Michael Robertson, CEO of Gizmo Project, a VOIP application. Fundamentally, Mr. Robertson is wrong. Mr. Robertson confuses open networks with open platforms. Skype is an open platform. Anyone, anywhere on the planet can download Skype for free, and he or she will be able to use Skype. Skype’s software is open to any application developer through our public Application Programming Interface (‘API’) program. Over 10,000 developers have taken advantage of this API and are part of Skype’s developer program. In fact there are many applications that use Skype’s APIs to send calls to/from Skype users and SIP endpoints, including VoSky, Fring, etc. Skype also recently collaborated with Digium/Asterisk, which will now bring Skype into “soft PBXs” for millions of users and allow many forms of applications and services to connect to Skype seamlessly.

    Mr. Robertson is also wrong on the law. He rehashes the incumbent wireless operators’ various arguments against network neutrality and confuses to whom the Internet Policy Statement applies. Openness rules are properly targeted at network operators because of the limited intermodal choices available to US consumers in a wireless market dominated by the top three operators. Conversely, there is nearly limitless choice in Internet applications, with fierce competition and few or no barriers to entry. Quite properly, therefore, the Internet Policy Statement applies to networks and not to applications. Its aim is to assure an open Internet so that consumers can choose from the limitless number of applications available to Internet users, absent discrimination by network operators. To apply it to Internet applications would flipt the Internet Policy statement on its head. What the network operators are doing is very different. They restrict consumer choice by blocking Skype and other applications to which consumers would like to have access. To apply the Internet Policy Statement to Internet applications would flip the Policy Statement on its head.

    We greatly appreciate CTIA’s invitation to attend the April show in Las Vegas. If CTIA members would like to prove their openness once and for all, Skype’s top executives will be available to attend the conference. When a Skype user can legally call the Chairman of the FCC on the mobile broadband networks of each of the top three wireless networks, we will know that their conduct is consistent with the consumer empowerment principles of the Internet Policy Statement.

    We look forward to working with the Commission and CTIA members to ensure that the whole Internet – including multimodal applications such as Skype – is available to consumers.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Christopher Libertelli
    Senior Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs
    6e etage, 22/24 boulevard Royal,
    Luxembourg, L-2449 LUXEMBOURG


    1. Most network operators continue to restrict VoIP and or P2P applications on their network in apparent violation of the protocol-agnostic network management techniques employed by other operators, including Comcast.

    2. See, e.g., Daniel Roth, Android: No VOIP for You -- and Other Oddities With the Google Phone. Sep. 23, 2008. In addition, commenting on the iPhone’s closed operating system, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, said "Consumers aren't getting all they want when companies are very proprietary and lock their products down...I would like to write some more powerful apps than what you're allowed." Oct 8, 2008

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall-Winter-Summer growth

Jean Mercier is the Skype Numerologist and a regular contributor to Skype Journal.

As usual after a Northern Hemisphere Summer, the growth of Skype users is again visible. Not that there is no growth in summer but

  • less people are working,
  • more people switch their computers off while they are in the garden, or
  • they are traveling and have less access to Internet.

Therefore, fewer users are online at the same time.

Those summers are very visible on the "million milestones" graph that I published last week. In all the past years, excluding the first year, the dots representing the "million milestones" are quite close to each other (see the brown left braces), except when there is a July-August period in the middle (see the red "summer" arrows).

So, what for 2008-2009? I would guess that Skype will as usual add two more "million dots' to its graph before July 2009 (see the Sky(pe) Blue extrapolated dots), going well over the 15 million people online. And I predict also that Skype will reach 16 million concurrent users somewhere around September 2009. But it is only a guess :-)

About growth speed

Each time that I pretend that the growth of Skype isn’t exponential, but linear or even slowing down, fellow blogger Hudson Barton tries to refute it. See his comment on my last post for instance (yes, aaytch, is Hudson himself)!

Perhaps I was a bit too fast and too rude to answer (I apologize for this), because indeed the last 12 months were much better, than the previous 12 months. But anyway, let me analyze the table above, to explain why I still feel I am right. The table shows the top or record concurrent users online at several dates in the past.

The third column is the mean daily (rounded) number of additional concurrent users online at “peak time” for a certain time span. For instance:

  • The last two weeks (before September 22), the mean increase was 35000 additional concurrent users online.
  • The last year it was 9800 additional concurrent users online.
  • And so on.

How do we predict the future? Based on the last two weeks (+35000)? Or on the last 6 months (only +5300!), or on the last year? We can’t predict the future of course, we only can make guesses.

Choosing periods smaller than a year is often wrong for predicting long term growth. Changes in speed in smaller periods can however teach us something about temporary effects (the success of the launch of new Skype features, or the seasonal “Northern Hemisphere summer” effect).

For the long term past growth, we the see that the 2007-2008 season (+9800 users/per day) was very much better than the previous season (+6500). Does this mean that the growth is much faster? Is Hudson right? Could be, but in my opinion, the season 2006-2007 (+6500) was a very bad one compared with the two previous ones (+8300 and +10000), and last year (+9800) was just catching up again.

Only the future will tell, and some signs are very promising: Asterisk, Client version 4.0, Skype for iPhone, perhaps even multiparty videoconferencing, …

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TOM-Skype Breach: Questions from 2006

Reblogging this post from 19 April 2006.

The Financial Times' Alison Maitland scored an interview with Niklas Zennström that ran yesterday. In it Zennström confirms the TOM-Skype joint venture censors text messages on behalf of the Chinese government. He claims: "One thing that’s certain is that those things are in no way jeopardising the privacy or the security of any of the users."

I posed the following questions to Skype but they have no comment beyond trying to insulate Skype from responsibility.

"The Skype offering in China is actively managed by our joint venture in the country; TOM Online. Skype works hard to co-operate with local laws and regulations in all markets where we do business."

  1. Is TOM only filtering chats where at least one of the callers' accounts were signed up by TOM Online?
  2. Will TOM filter chats if both parties are Chinese nationals but outside the PRC, say traveling in the US?
  3. Is TOM only filtering conversations where at least one of the parties are using the custom version of the Skype client written for the joint venture?
  4. Will TOM filter conversations using the TOM client being used by non-PRC nationals who are outside of China?
  5. Does TOM's contract with Skype provide for disclosure to Skype and Skype users when their information is provided to a government official?
  6. Are records of what the filter does kept? If so, by whom? Does Skype have or keep copies of those record?
  7. Does the filtering mechanism use a list of keywords? If so, is the list public? May I have a copy? Who has the list? How often does it change?
  8. Are the keywords only in Simplified Chinese or are they in other languages too?
  9. Is China the only country where Skype and Skype's partner have set up filtering?
  10. Do all Skype chats have the potential for a hidden participant, whether human or a robot?
  11. Are filenames for transfer subject to filtering?
  12. Are people's names among the keywords?
  13. Are the content of files transferred via Skype also subject to filtering?
  14. Does Skype encrypt end-to-end the IMs that are subject to filtering?
  15. In a multiparty, multinational chat, can I as an American citizen have my text to a British subject filtered if someone from Shanghai is in that chat too?
  16. Are audio conversations, where at least one party is in China, being listened to, filtered or recorded?
  17. Are all calls filtered, or only if users meet certain criteria, or are conversations selected for filtering randomly?

Skype's founders are not strangers to prickly questions of international law and corporate ethics. Their background with file sharing firm Kazaa left them very aware of the business and technology strategies available and their legal and social consequences. This is also a context where phone companies completely block and Skype conversations.

Did the ethics conversation ever take place at Skype when they agreed to the Chinese joint venture?

Who was involved and was there a real debate?

And did eBay understand this situation before the acquisition?

See also:

  • Jan in Malaysia: "The difference between Asia where Internet is seen as venue for free expression in Asia, unlike China. Thank god I live in Malaysia. Malaysia Boleh ! Wawasan 2020."
  • Metafilter thread. "Oh dear, I had high hopes that Skype would hold out. Still, I guess they are telling us. Can anyone find the list of banned words in the TOM client?"
  • China Herald: "But on a positive note, unlike Yahoo, Skype does not help to send their users to prison"
  • 21talks: "And dear readers, the next time you want to give a call to the holy Dalai Lama, just say you’re trying to reach the smiling guy with glasses and a yellow head cap."
  • IP Democracy: "Yeah, well, last I checked, the U.S. and Germany don’t lock up their journalists and throw away the key."

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TOM-Skype Breach: Does TOM-Skype bring users?

TOM-Skype: Two Years by you.

So, why Skype doesn't just walk away from a partnership?

Results matter.

86 thousand new people have signed up daily for two years.

You have to do what's right, but the temptation to stay and the cost of leaving is strong.

Source material...  

In the 2006 Annual Report:

At the end of January 2007, there were over 31.5 million registered TOM-Skype users, up from over 9.0 million at the end of February 2006, an increase of over 22.5 million new registered users.

In the 2007 Annual Report:

At the end of February 2008, TOM-Skype registered users were close to 63 million, up from about 31 million and 51 million at the end of December 2006 and July 2007, respectively.

In the news release titled "TOM Online Reports Second Quarter 2007 Results":

At the end of June 2007, we have over 42.0 mn TOM-Skype registered users up from over 35.5 mn at the end
of March 2007.

So, moving things one day for the convenience of starting on the first of a month:

Date TOM-Skype Accounts
3/1/2006 9.0   ANNUAL REPORT 2006
1/1/2007 31.0 71k ANNUAL REPORT 2007
2/1/2007 31.5 16k ANNUAL REPORT 2006
4/1/2007 35.5 67k TOM Online Q2-2007
7/1/2007 42.0 71k TOM Online Q2-2007
8/1/2007 51.0 290k ANNUAL REPORT 2007
3/1/2008 63.0 56k ANNUAL REPORT 2007

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Monday, October 6, 2008

TOM-Skype Breach: A Promise

Skype made a promise to its users from the very start. Here's a page on their web site, No adware, spyware or malware, where they make that promise to this day.

No adware, spyware or malware

Skype is totally safe from these pesky blighters.

Skype protects and maintains your online security and peace of mind. This means that it will not display unwanted and intrusive advertising, or allow any malware or spyware to operate.

  • No adware – no intrusive adverts.
  • No spyware – nothing logs your online activity.
  • No malware – no programs that could adversely affect your computer.

What is adware?

Adware is a type of software that makes money by automatically delivering unwanted advertisements usually as pop-ups. Normally it is very hard, if not impossible, to turn off the adware causing the problem.

Because you always have the ability to turn advertising messages off on the Skype software, we believe Skype is free of adware.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of software that automatically installs itself on your computer, usually without your knowledge, and covertly collects and transmits data about your computer use. For example, spyware may monitor a user’s behaviour and pass on details of a their online activity (for example, their usernames or passwords) to a third party for use in identity theft and fraud.

Skype does not allow any spyware to be included.

What is malware?

Malware (or malicious software) relates to software that is designed to infiltrate or damage a computer operating system or other programs. These are often described as computer viruses, worms, or Trojan horses. They sometimes come combined with other software and load in the background.

Skype never allows any other programs to be installed unless you are clearly informed of their presence.

As of 6 October 2008.

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