Yesterday, one of my favorite tech / gadget blogs featured a blurb reporting that “a team of Chinese engineers” (read: hackers) have “reverse-engineered” (read: cracked) Skype. I won’t re-hash the legal, moral, and economic implications of such a development; the author of the blog post to which Gizmodo refers has done a fine job of that
What I will say is this: it’s about time. As much as I am a fan-girl of Skype, I am frustrated and a little annoyed by the pace of Skype development, especially for non-Windows platforms. OS X users await video conferencing features; meanwhile, i386-Linux users recently got their first “new release” – a beta version – in nine months, and PPC-Linux users are still waiting for a Skype client at all. Hopefully, the threat of competition from the open-source community will light a fire under the Skype development team, or I suspect we’ll see some great third-party apps with the features Skype is missing in the next couple of months.
The full ramifications for the education community aren’t yet clear, though. Part of what makes Skype the tool of choice for language learners is the voice quality it provides, which often rivals or even beats that of POTS. Will third-party applications keep intact the protocol Skype uses to make that happen? If not, an increase in users and a decrease in resources could mean lower-quality calls for all. And how will the availability of third-party applications affect the price of calling – another of Skype’s attractive qualities? I suppose we’ll see soon enough…