Skype gets hacked
The VoipWiki blog is reporting that a Chinese company has reverse-engineered the client software for Skype, the wildly popular Internet telephone service purchased last year by eBay for $2.6 billion. The detailed blog report appears credible. Assuming it's true, though, it's not entirely clear what the impact of a Skype clone would be on the company's fortunes. The Skype software is a free Web download, and allows free calls between Skype users. The skipped service enables a Skype client to call regular landline phones for a fee, but the new Chinese client does not appear to support that functionality.
VoipWiki, however, says the cloned software could pose problems for eBay's plans to embed ads inside Skype's software, displayed as users make calls: "Now that there is the prospect of a competing client available, there is little doubt that there will be an ad-free alternative to Skype should advertisements on Skype appear in the future." Om Malik has picked up the news, calling the potential for a Skype "crack" the "2.6 billion-dollar question," and noting the irony of the original guerrilla telecommunications software itself coming under attack by a guerrilla programming effort: "[The] virus has mutated," writes Malik. "And the parasite has a parasite."
But Skype has ways to fight back, say VoipWiki readers. "Skype won't sue," comments one. "They'll release a new version of Skype which boots the Skype clone off the air. The Chinese company will then get caught in a cat-and-mouse fight. Most people will migrate back to Skype because they won't want to deal with the up/down spiral and having to wait for new fixes to come out."
Welcome to the brave new world of Internet telephony. We've come a long way from Mabel at the switchboard.
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