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Skype Releases Open SDK 108

Posted by timothy
from the build-it-they-will-come dept.
An anonymous reader writes "SkypeKit gives Linux developers access to core functionality, allowing Linux developers to add video, calling, and instant messaging features to desktop applications. The SDK also comes with the freshly royalty-free SILK codec for high-end audio. Skype is hoping that the inclusion of SILK will popularize the codec, extending its reach. Currently, the SkypeKit beta is only available for Linux on an invite-only basis, with Windows and Mac versions planned in coming weeks. The SDK does not cover Android or Mac, an odd choice considering the announcement of SkypeKit championed itself for extending the functionality of Skype to multiple platforms and devices. Including smartphones in the SDK seems like an obvious move." Ars Technica has a rundown, too.
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Skype Releases Open SDK

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  • This should be interesting... I wonder what a combination of Skype and Google Voice could do for me...
  • by hkmwbz (531650) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:56PM (#32670694) Journal
    I'm assuming that Skype plans on making money off of this somehow, so how are they doing that? Are they hoping for people to use Skype technologies everywhere, so that more people will start paying Skype for the commercial/paid offerings they have?
    • by omnichad (1198475) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:00PM (#32670764) Homepage

      Using SkypeOut as a trunk in Asterisk would make them a little bit of cash. Otherwise, I can't really say I know what their "normal" business model ever was.

      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@@@slashdot...firenzee...com> on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:33PM (#32671146) Homepage

        I don't see why, Skype are pretty expensive compared to the various SIP providers out there which Asterisk already supports natively... And with an open protocol like SIP you actually have a choice of providers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DJRumpy (1345787)

          I suspect this is related somehow to FaceTime, which Apple also open sourced. Skype could potentially face loosing the market, much like Adobe is with Flash vs. HTML5.

        • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @08:28PM (#32672600)

          Skype is:

          a) Much cheaper now, they have several A-Z ratecards, some of the reasonably cheap (I have good carriers to compare, their prices are somewhat similar to Verizon(SIP), Voipjet (IAX2) and Minutehub(SIP) on many routes, and cheaper on some, and they have a reasonable quality)
          b) They do provide SIP access. I have them configured with sip.skype.com in several asterisk servers.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:07PM (#32670868) Homepage

      Skype has products that they charge by the minute for.

      Every single thing they do doesn't have to be a profit center. Some of it can just help build the brand.

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:08PM (#32670886) Journal

      Are they hoping for people to use Skype technologies everywhere, so that more people will start paying Skype for the commercial/paid offerings they have?

      Short answer, yes.

      Long answer, YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:10PM (#32670922) Journal
      Given that their definition of "open" seems to be "Why yes, you are welcome to make your application dependent on our proprietary binary and network through this set of defined interfaces, at least on such platforms as we have blessed for the purpose." I'm assuming that Skype is operating on the assumption that they will pick up some additional customers for their commercial offerings who might have been put off by having to use the Skype client itself.

      It is also possible, given the omission of android, that they also hope to have their embedded version be something that companies have to pay for in order to integrate with their products(just as Flash was free on the desktop but licensed for inclusion in embedded devices, back before steve stole their lunch money)
      • Agreed. For services like this, open can't mean any less than open protocols and distributed p2p servers that anyone can run, which all share an open, downloadable database.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jvillain (546827)

        Am I the only one having a little trouble making the word "Open" mesh with the phrase "by invite only"?

      • Skype delivers one of the two binary softwares I use on a daily basis. And it
        * is stable,
        * works reliably and as one would expect it to,
        * is free,
        * doesn't have on par FLOSS rivals (sorry, ekiga, no)
        They develop a Linux version that is properly not making them any profit.

        Yes it would be nicer if it was open source, or if someone developed (and built the community) an open source alternative.

        But compared to what Skype is right now, the use would not be better by much.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vivian (156520)

          It should be making them a profit - I only use Linux and use Skype for nearly all my calls and have been doing so for several years now, since August 2006. I have a skype-Out account, and regularly make calls to mobile phones and land-lines, and occasionally overseas, and I have a skype-in number too. So far in 2010, I have spent $63 with them.

          Surely I can't be the only one. I definitely feel like a second class citizen in the Skype world though, with a UI that has been in beta for a year, and is significa

          • by Zebedeu (739988)

            First thing I will be implementing in my front end for skype: Some kind of filter so I stop getting those damn penis enlargment ads / chat with Mis-sxyxxx chick etc. that keep popping up every few days.

            Have you tried going to the preferences and simply setting skype to only accept calls and chats from people in your contact list?

            It's kind of annoying that this isn't set by default, but you just have to do it once after installation.

            • by vivian (156520)

              I considered doing this, but I sometimes hand my business card out to people, which has my skype details on it.

              In the same way that you wouldn't want to block people from calling your phone unless they were on your friends list, I do not want to block people from skyping me if they are not on my contacts list.

              I do however want to be able to eliminate the lamer contacts.

              If there were some way to tell how long a skype account had been active, Ideally, I would like to have a filter so that I could only be cont

        • by dylan_- (1661)

          * doesn't have on par FLOSS rivals (sorry, ekiga, no)

          Why not Ekiga? What does Skype do that it doesn't? (Genuine question, I really don't know; I don't use either yet, but I thought I'd be using Ekiga).

    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:22PM (#32671044) Homepage Journal

      Skype's problem is that developing a version of Skype that works on the various popular (and not so popular) versions of Linux is difficult. The Linux market is small enough, and fractured enough, that Skype would just as soon not even try. Unfortunately, Skype is concerned that, if left to its own devices, the Free Software community is large enough to build and popularize a Skype alternative that could compete with Skype. It has certainly done that sort of thing before.

      So Skype is providing a SDK that would allow Open Source hackers the ability to build there own GUI front ends for Skype's service. This neatly solves the problem of creating a Linux client that works everywhere, as the preferred method for integrating software into a distribution in the Free Software world is to simply provide source. The idea is to get the Open Source hackers to work out the tricky bits like figuring out which API allows access to the web cam, and which API should be used for audio input/output. The folks working on the various distributions know how this is done, and Skype (apparently) does not.

      This is a win for Skype because they get some help in creating Linux clients, and it is theoretically a win for the Open Source community as they get a working Skype client. This still leaves the Free Software guys, the ones that won't use Skype no matter how slick it is, because it is proprietary, to build their own competing service. Their initial reaction would probably be to leverage the work done by the Open Source guys. My guess is that Skype will try and make it so that the license on their SDK will not allow that. However, this is likely to be easier said than done, and that probably explains why the SDK has not actually been released yet. Skype is probably working on the proper license that will allow them to use the Free Software libraries that they need to use, while making it impossible for the Free Software guys to use software created to work with their SDK.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Skype: "oh noes! the linux desktop market - how could we have overlooked that?!?! we must dominate that lucrative space without further ado"

        Seriously, they don't give a stuff about two linux nerds talking to each other over Skype. Skype is about ubiquity. Windows is ubiquity. Apple is ubiquitous in some markets.

        If next generation telephone networks can use Skype as a channel then Skype gets in on the action on you calling your bank or supermarket or council or doctors ....

        You use Asterisk (and it's ilk) all

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          In order to be ubiquitous, you have to not have any big holes in coverage. By most sources I can find, the iOS market is currently smaller than the desktop GNU/Linux market, but Adobe was making a huge deal about iOS not supporting Flash.
          • smaller by what metric? number of devices in circulation? or number of new devices likely to be sold this year/next ten years? Business men only care about the latter i'm afraid.... Are you honestly surprised adobe were worried about iOS not supporting flash? (well let's be honest, adobe doesn't care, but their shareholders do..... )
            • I'm talking about current market share. Skype may be looking into the future for their plans, but they might see a different future than others, since analysts often make all kinds of crazy claims, and the "Year of the Linux Desktop" is not the craziest among them, so it may be a bet worth hedging to them. I'm not surprised that Adobe cares. Adobe needs Flash to penetrate every market with any degree of significance in order to maintain its utility, and so does Skype.
      • by StayFrosty (1521445) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:44PM (#32671266)

        This is a win for Skype because they get some help in creating Linux clients, and it is theoretically a win for the Open Source community as they get a working Skype client.

        Skype already provides a working Linux client here [skype.com]. I have used it on both popular (Ubuntu) and not-as-popular (Gentoo and Arch) distributions and it works great.

        The idea is to get the Open Source hackers to work out the tricky bits like figuring out which API allows access to the web cam, and which API should be used for audio input/output. The folks working on the various distributions know how this is done, and Skype (apparently) does not.

        Skype's official client uses V4L2 for video (the only current video API) and ALSA for audio (the most popular audio API.) I'd say they have it figured out pretty well.

        • by Jurily (900488)

          Skype already provides a working Linux client here.

          For some definitions of "working", of course. Last time I tried to use it (Gentoo amd64), I ended up with an x86 Ubuntu inside VMware.

          • I've been running the 2.1 Beta 2 client from portage. I have yet to have a problem of any sort. I'm running it primarily on Gentoo AMD64. I've also used the deb package provided from the link in my previous post and have not had any problems to speak of there either.
        • Skype's official client uses V4L2 for video (the only current video API) and ALSA for audio (the most popular audio API.) I'd say they have it figured out pretty well.

          Well... The latest version as of now is version 2.1.0.81 and refuses to "work" (read: I get crackling sound all the time with the microphone) with anything other than the dreaded Pulseaudio (the only selectable choice in the audio options is the Pulseaudio server). I did try to uninstall Pulseaudio to force it to use ALSA, but the result was even worse as far as recording is concerned — that is, unless you think it's fun to sound like a Goa'uld.

          This is what I got under Ubuntu 10.04.

        • by benfell (212266)

          It is true that the Skype client works great with ALSA. At least on my laptops, however, pulseaudio removes the ability to configure audio devices within Skype. Skype's audio configuration allows you to configure distinct ring, audio, and microphone devices. I'll probably get flamed by pulseaudio advocates, but getting pulseaudio to configure any audio devices appears to me to be more in the realm of magic than actual function (which is why I now routinely uninstall pulseaudio).

          I'll agree with the open s

      • I wonder if this opens the door to WebOS, which is basically a Linux stack once you've konami'd it. I've been patiently waiting for a WebOS (Read: Palm Pre) Skype app for awhile.

        • by chill (34294)

          It might. Skype voice-only has been available on the N900 since it was released. The latest update, earlier this month, added video chat using the front-facing camera and conference calling.

          • Skype voice-only has been available on the N900 since it was released.

            I have not been able to call ordinary phones (POST) using Skype, on my N900.

            Yes, I am paying for the Skype-Out service (monthly subscription). I can dial ordinary phones from the Skype client on my Kubuntu 10.04 laptop, but not my N900. The fact that my N900 Skype client says that my destination number "is invalid" (because it should be the name of a Skype account) is disappointing, to say the least. (Although it's only one in a long l

            • by dovf (811000)

              I've use Skype-Out on the N900 all the time without any problem. You may need to add the international prefix in order for it to work (starting with a + ). If you still have problems, head over to http://talk.maemo.org/ [maemo.org] .

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      Remember: Skype is owned by eBay. Once the WTF!?! wears off, you'll remember what they did with paypal and eBay itself: Attract users with price, convenience, and functionality, lock them in, and jack up the fees.
      • Skype was owned by eBay.

        Fixed that for you. Last year they sold their majority stake in it. See details on Skype Limited on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

      • Yeah, last time i used e-bay i had to pay some guy £50 to buy a camera lens off him! The cheek! I even had to pay the royal mail to deliver it. Jesus, is nothing free anymore? You know what really takes the biscuit?!? Last time i spoke to my fiancée on skype, apparently I've got to pay for the wedding now! I hate e-bays model of making me pay for things - it sucks! Too right about lock in! If it wasn't for e-bay, I wouldn't be engaged! ( ..... actually that last bit, that's not actually true!)
        • Too right about lock in! If it wasn't for e-bay, I wouldn't be engaged!

          It could be worse, so just be thankful for Cotton-Eyed Joe.

    • by XCondE (615309)

      I'm assuming that Skype plans on making money off of this somehow, so how are they doing that?

      When you buy SkypeOut credit you can call "normal" (land lines, cellular) phones from skype. It's dirt cheap to call the UK from Australia, for instance.

      Needing a computer to make skype calls limits your use and so making skype more ubiquitous is obviously one of their strategies. Just look at all skype USB handsets on the market. Look at the inclusion of Skype on the Nokia N900 (which works over your mobile data plan btw, not only wifi).

      I'd make a guess that this SDK will make its way to other mobile de

      • When you buy SkypeOut credit you can call "normal" (land lines, cellular) phones from skype. It's dirt cheap to call the UK from Australia, for instance.

        The from is irrelevant - from is always the Internet, it's the to that matters. Skype charges 1.4p/minute for calls to Australia. That's slightly cheaper than the SIP provider that I use (charges 1.8p/minute), but they're based in Germany, so they're not the cheapest for calls to Australia. A quick look found me one SIP provider that charges AU$0.10 (about 6p) per call, unlimited duration, another that charges under 1p/minute. Of course, because SIP is an open standard, a single client can communicate

    • by jcr (53032)

      Are they hoping for people to use Skype technologies everywhere, so that more people will start paying Skype for the commercial/paid offerings they have?

      Yeah, that's it in a nutshell. Skype makes their money from SkypeOut, and the more widely Skype is used, the more people will pay them for the convenience of calling land-line and cell phones from Skype.

      -jcr

  • How is this open? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:08PM (#32670888) Homepage
    From the faq:

    Is SkypeKit ‘open’? What will you restrict?
    The topic of openness is often debated and its definition can mean different things to different people. For starters, we believe in an open Internet and open standards. We are adopting an open approach meaning we are releasing APIs and enabling others to use SkypeKit and apply it in new ways. But, SkypeKit won’t be opened up to every single use case that developers dream up. For example, our license terms prohibit using SkypeKit for gambling or adult-themed applications.

    Think of SkypeKit as a "headless" version of Skype – that is, a Skype client with no user interface that runs invisibly.

    How is this even remotely close to open ? As far as I can see it's still just a binary blob!

  • I'd really like to see this result in Linux support for screen sharing. It works great on Mac and Windows, but the Linux Skype client is quite old and they don't seem to have much interest in developing for Linux besides making sure the packages can still install.

  • So they don't want a porn webcam client built on Skype? I get that. Maybe that scared them from fully opening the client. But community development is beneficial.

    But in the end, they own the Skype trademark. No one could call their client a Skype client without their permission. Just like Mozilla is protective of non-standard builds being labeled as Firefox.

  • Why does anyone use a proprietary system like Skype, when open standards such as SIP and Jingle (used by google talk) exist? Isn't skype just another closed system to get locked into?

    • Re:Screw Skype.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Per Wigren (5315) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:47PM (#32671314) Homepage
      Everybody use it because everybody else use it, because it's so incredibly easy to get started with and most of them don't even know what the word "proprietary" means.
      • Everybody use it because everybody else use it, because it's so incredibly easy to get started with and most of them don't even know what the word "proprietary" means.

        The flip side is that open source developers seem to be incapable of building up a community and connecting to people who "don't even know what the word "proprietary" means". See XMPP, SIP, GPG, ...

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      i like the skype out service for cheap VOIP>PTSN over my existing internet connection,
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        As I said in another post, Skype is not cheaper than SIP providers. For any of the destinations that you might want to call, you'll be able to find a SIP provider that is cheaper. If you pick a SIP provider at random, it will be cheaper than Skype for some destinations, more expensive for others. If you shop around, you can find one that's cheaper for each of the destinations that you want. And, because SIP is an open protocol, you can usually configure a single client to interact with multiple provider
        • by jubei (89485)

          Skype offers unlimited calling to the US & Canada for $2.99 a month. Are there any SIP providers that match that?

          • I don't know. I make under a minute's worth of calls to the USA and Canada combined per year, so it's completely irrelevant to me. I didn't look more than briefly, but I found one company that offered free calls, up to 5 minutes in duration each, to US and Canada. Not sure about longer calls, but you can probably find someone giving a better deal if you look.
          • by Bert64 (520050)

            Voipraider (www.voipraider.com) offer free calls to several destinations including the US and Canada if you top up GBP10 of credit every 3 months... You still have the GBP10 of credit to use calling other numbers, or after the 3 months when your free calls expire you can use it to make chargeable calls to your destinations until the credit runs out (so i usually last 4-5 months before i need to buy more credit)...
            There are a whole bunch of other providers you can choose from, you can shop around - thats the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jps25 (1286898)

      Because there's no alternative to videocalls between OS X / Linux / Windows.

    • People use Skype because it just plain works and is multiplatform. And free as in beer. And it can do calls to the legacy phone network if you want to.
    • You're mixing protocols, libraries and applications.

      And Skype's echo cancellation works perfectly, or close to it. Even with a crappy laptop with built-in mic and speakers. Nothing open source works on SIP channels (unless you offload to expensive hardware, but then, that's not really open source).

    • by Again (1351325)

      Why does anyone use a proprietary system like Skype, when open standards such as SIP and Jingle (used by google talk) exist? Isn't skype just another closed system to get locked into?

      I have a pretty slow internet connection and audio quality is quite a bit better on Skype then on Google Talk. I hate the Linux Skype client as it crashes very frequently (pretty much every second time I click on the start my video button) and it hogs memory so I will only open when it is time to make a call. Skype releasing an "open" sdk raises my hopes of having a nice Skype client that won't crash and that I can permanently leave open on my computer.

    • My mom uses Skype to video chat with my aunt in Ecuador, and I'd really like to get her an open source/open protocol alternative. I have my own Linode VPS I could use for SIP, Jingle, or XMPP server, but I don't know a) what server b) what cross platform win/linux/mac clients are skype equivalents in ease of use and video quality. Can someone recommend the awesomest open source Skype alternative? I'd have thought video chat would be built into pidgin and empathy by now, and on every Ubuntu desktop. Also
  • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:42PM (#32671242) Homepage
    I see this as Skype acknowledging that FaceTime [apple.com] will change everything once it's opened up (as Apple claims they will do).

    Skype can win if it's ubiquitous (ie, de-facto standard) even if FaceTime is really open where it appears not to be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cheesybagel (670288)
      Yes, of course, Apple changes the world once again with their innovative technology *yawn*. Did it ever occur to you not everyone owns Apple hardware, or that people may be using their PCs to do video calls while they can do work at the same time?
      • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:47PM (#32671788)
        Supposedly, FaceTime is going to be an open standard, so it could become more widely implemented, and thus pose a threat to Skype.
        • Open standard it may be(come), but I'd rather take a working standard (albeit proprietary) which works today, and lets me chat to my colleagues on the other side of the atlantic (and has time and again proved that it works for that purpose for the past 5+ years or so). Where i work skype is as much of an essential coding tool as visual C++, gcc or gdb is. Programmers *know better* than to believe hype about 'what may become' or 'what might be'. So until we have: an open standard for FaceTime; have clients t
          • The biggest advantage that FaceTime seems to have is that it's an 'open standard', although how open it is has yet to be seen. By making at least parts of Skype open or sort of open, they can fight FaceTime before it gets any momentum and maybe get a bit more proliferation in the process.
    • Skype has been talking about this since November last year:
  • There is already SIP and H323 which are standard protocols implemented by all major VoIP and videoconference sellers and providers.

    Why would you want to use a limited and broken protocol only implemented by one company, and which specifications aren't even published?

    • by xiando (770382) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @02:05AM (#32674270) Homepage Journal

      Why would you want to use a limited and broken protocol only implemented by one company, and which specifications aren't even published?

      I use SIP and my mother uses SIP because I gave her a pre-configured hardware SIP phone and even plugged it in for her. Everyone else wants me to install Skype NOW. That's why you would want to implement the broken protocol.

      Nobody but my mother calls me using SIP, even though SIP:*8967100@sip.kristinehamnk1.com is published numerous places on the Internets (don't need the after @ part if you abuse SipBroker), everyone wants me to start using Facebook & install Skype. That's what the world has come to. You don't need SIP to talk to yourself and that's about all you can do with it, if you have friends then you'll find they all use Facebook and Skype and other evil.

  • SkypeKit beta is only available for Linux on an invite-only basis, with Windows and Mac versions planned in coming weeks. The SDK does not cover Android or Mac

  • I think Skype's sudden rush to get some sort of functional API and relevance that Linux users/programmers can use to be honest is interesting but to little to late. Yes there is a huge 10,000lb gorilla in the room called Google and just recently they (google) have opened access to the general public (USA only right now but there are hacks to get around that). Were Google has got it right is not so much the integration of different services like mobiles and home/work telephones is the fact they have gone wit
  • Anybody who's tried to find Skype for an Android phone could clear that up. There used be an official Skype client for Android, but it's been withdrawn "in order to improve the mobile experience". Translation: if you want Skype on any mobile platform other than iPhone, you have to switch to Verizon [skype.com]. Hard to enforce if there's an Android SDK.

  • There is currently a proprietary Skype channel driver for Asterisk [skype.com] that you can buy and bolt onto your Asterisk server to make Skype calls. Does the availability of this new SDK mean that it will now be trivial for someone to build such a module and release it (minus the "Open SDK" of course) as open source?
  • The Skype corporation are NOT about to let us have free GNU/Linux software withing with Skype. Their inherantly evil website states that:

    What are the fees for using SkypeKit? To get started, we will charge a nominal membership fee -- less than $20 US -- for access to the program and SkypeKit. Once a third-party product is ready for commercialization, there is an add-on fee for user experience and audio/video testing and certification, which we require to make sure products are ready and qualified for our plugged into Skype descriptor that is awarded to approved products.

    They might as well have not released it for GNU/Linux at all. I am not about to install some binary blob application based on SkypeShit and pay $20 for (ab)using it. btw, SIP ftw.

  • Its about handsets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by secondhand_Buddah (906643) <.secondhand.buddah. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday June 24, 2010 @02:49AM (#32674482) Homepage Journal
    Skype Open SDK for Linux = a free market for innovative Skype handsets.
  • I'm still waiting for the day I can hook to even the most basic Skype interface using Pidgin. All of my contacts use Yahoo!, MSN, or GTalk - except one. And he swears by Skype. Consequently, I don't ever communicate with him online (even though he's a close relative), because I don't want that xxxx installed on any box I use.

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