A bit of history
In order to understand what Skype was for its time, we must remember what level of technology there was at the moment of its release. And so, it is autumn 2003. There haven’t been any modern smartphones yet. PDA’s (palm handhelds with Windows Mobile and limited capabilities) have just started gaining popularity in the world. Laptop autonomy and performance are less than modest, most people still use desktops. WiFi features are also rather limited and a leased line of 128 kbits/s is considered luxury, unless you live in the capital. Modems are still running the show in the periphery. The whole world uses text messengers – ICQ and MSN Messenger. Facebook has not yet been invented. The concept of social networking is still somewhere in the bud. Computer services for PC modernization are starting to appear.
At this point a voice communication service is coming out, free for everyone. All you need is to download and install a client program and go through a pretty simple registration process. Everyone installs it, they tell each other their skype names, test it and… It’s a miracle! It simply works!
Skype revolutions and its fundamental difference was something that later became its Achilles’ heel – the architecture. The company based the service on a decentralized P2P architecture, where each user’s computer with the installed and running client program and having “white” IP was converted into a router for the nearest Skype users behind NAT. This made it possible to scale the network up to unimaginable size of tens of millions of users without expensive equipment and quality loss. The users of Torrent, the basis of which is the same P2P principle, are well aware that the more people are involved in downloading (and sharing at the same time) of the same file, the higher is the speed of access to the file overall. Thus each owner of at least a “piece” of the file is immediately sharing it with the nearest neighbor, while receiving another “piece” from another neighbor.
What will it be?
A few days ago there was a post on the company’s official blog, “Skype – the journey we’ve been on”, which describes a new strategy and a new platform for a further development of the service.
The blog states that all recent developer’s activities have been focused on the complete rejection of P2P-architecture and the transition to a modern cloud technology. Among the advantages of the new approach, there are pre-existing features such as file transfer and video messaging, which have undergone substantial modernization, as well as some new products such as group video, a translator, and the so popular these days bots. Besides, the rejection of the old architecture should allow Microsoft to rid Skype of a number of issues on mobile devices such as message transfer rate, synchronization between devices and push-notification.
After the transition Skype promise to focus on the quality of calls and some new features, the essence of which is not disclosed. For users of systems left behind, they promise support and development of an updated web version, which will of course be cloud-based.
Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime, Telegram, Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Mail.Ru Agent, WeChat, QQ… Are there too many messengers? Are there too many proprietary protocols? After all, the basic functionality of all these services and applications is duplicated. Instead of a universal and open protocol, which would have had its security improved by the world community, where third-party developers would have been responsible only for the convenience and functionality of client applications, we got all this wild zoo of protocols and standards, which forces us to keep multiple instant messengers running on our smartphones at the same time, at the expense of convenience and comfort. Time will show.