In a previous post, I discussed the important of integrated VoIP, IM and presence.
[Adam Sherman] misses one key player in the presence space. Skype. It may be justified as he describes the benefits of IM, VoIP and Presence using SIP and SIMPLE, two elements that SKYPE lacks.
I guess I better come out and say it: Skype scares me. There.
Skype has a solid product, backed by a solid service and is giving it away for free. They intend to charge for value-added services like calling the PSTN. The client works through all kinds of weird network configurations as is fully cross-platform. It has most (all?) of the requisite presence functionality.
So why am I scared? Two reasons: central control and standards.
If Skype takes off and corners a piece of the market, users will be dependent on a central, proprietary, system. As I mentioned previously, I believe that this is a critical flaw and that we must adopt standards that are distributed in nature. The proof of this is in SMTP, which is extremely reliable and needs no central authority (Other than the root DNS system.) Which brings me to my second concern…
Skype uses no standards. Admittedly, this is probably a major reason for its success. While SIP struggles to become a fully functional protocol by extending with SIMPLE, we deal with poor audio codecs and terrible user agent implementations. Skype doesn’t have to worry about this. But these protocols will mature and implementations will be tuned. We will then, hopefully, live in a wonderfully interconnected world where the limitations of the long-forgotten public switched telephone network will be a thing of the past.
Until then though, I hope Skype does well enough to raise the profile of VoIP but not so well that it gets us into a technological dead-end.