Skype is NOT like Open Source
When I read this blog posting from Andy Abramson: Is Skype Almost Open Source, it made me want to puke. I will give Andy this point: Skype is creating a community around itself. There’s nothing wrong with that. I made a career out of doing this very thing for Check Point VPN-1 in the past, but I wouldn’t compare it to Open Source. Not even for a moment.
Open Source is more than just about sharing ideas: it’s a sharing of code and control. In products like Skype or Check Point VPN-1, a single company ultimately controls that. And while they may solicit ideas and even cooperative products from others, all of that is ultimately about increasing the bottom line of the company that controls the product. Skype isn’t “opening things up” because they’re nice guys, they are trying to increase their value proposition with others doing the work for them.
In a true Open Source community, participants at all levels share in the work for keeping the project going and in the rewards that come from that. If some people disagree about the direction of the product and the differences cannot be resolved, the code can always fork and life moves on. With truly free code, you can do that.
Meanwhile, the only thing I can see that Skype has over everyone else is ubiquity. It does have a nice interface and all that, but the ubiquity is what is truly compelling. I can run Skype on Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Pocket PC. That covers a wide swath of platforms. They also work in what seems like more situations than your typical softphone or VoIP Analog Terminal Adapter. Now if they’d just produce a Symbian client…
What I don’t understand is why Andy continues to use Skype for his participation in KenRadio when the sound quality is frequently not up to snuff. Seems like an advertisment against Skype to me.