Some time ago we made a mention of Skype on Linux in one of our short newsflashes called 'Quickies'. We were very pleased by the way it nicely blends itself into the KDE desktop. Now we contacted the Skype people where we came in touch with Jaanus Kase who took time to answer our questions.
border:1px dotted #000;
border:1px dotted #000;
Please introduce yourself.
I am working in Skype project management team, and one of my tasks is to
manage Skype for Linux - collect feedback from users, work with developers,
testers and external parties. I don't do actual coding myself, but I do a
lot of design and quality assurance. I'm using MEPIS, SuSE 9.1 and Java
Desktop System Release 2, and Windows XP.
When will version 1.0 for Linux arrive?
The version 1.0 release that was launched on July 27 was for the
Windows platform, as well as the SkypeOut service. The Linux version 1.0
is on its way and new versions are coming out for closed testing all the
time and will reach the public once they're ready. There will not be a
significant leap in features between before-1.0 and post-1.0 versions
- it's a gradual evolution as we continuously innovate and improve
The Linux client doesn't seem to have the full functionality of the
Windows version. In particular, it lacks the advanced settings tab, which
limits Skype to the default sound device and makes using a headset
difficult. Are there plans to more fully develop the Linux client?
Yes there are plans and in fact, the sound device selection will be available
to the public soon. The goal for the Linux version is to bring it on par with
the Windows version feature- and quality-wise.
The Skype website does mention the amount of downloads but how many
people do you think are using Skype?
Today we know have just over 10.5 million registered users on Skype as we also
track this information. The concurrent online users figure, which you can see
in the Skype client, is approaching half a million. These are very
significant numbers and they are growing all the time.
How does Skype compete with for example MSN which has the largest share
of the instant messaging market?
Skype offers free superior sound quality Internet
telephony. In addition, it includes:
- Conference calling - enables simultaneous and seamless voice communication
between groups of up to five friends, family or colleagues. The Linux version
currently has only conference client but will have hosting too.
- Global Directory - the user-built global Skype contacts directory with
numerous search options and an easy add-a-contact tool
- Customization - My Picture image display
- Mobility - login into Skype account on more than one PC anywhere in the
- Multiple Skype accounts on one PC
In comparison with other IM/voice clients, we can ensure:
- Better usability in networks. MSN and many other VoIP providers have voice
calls, but those cannot penetrate firewalls or NAT. Skype has solved this
problem. The same goes for other forms of communication (file transfers,
instant messages) that sometimes don't go through firewalls.
- Better performance. MSN is server-based, meaning that performance suffers in
peak hours and users simply cannot do voice calls due to server overload.
Skype calls are truly P2P, involving the distributed network itself for
routing calls, so it scales up very well and does not suffer from this kind
of performance problems.
We are working on adding more user requested features to the software, such as
video calling, etc.
Are there any plans to allow the Skype client to connect to other
networks, e.g. MSN, ICQ, Yahoo!, Jabber! etc., like many Linux IM clients?
We believe in interoperability. However, our main goal is to respond to our
users' requests and needs, and to focus on continuing to innovate and make
Skype the best offering for Internet telephony. Connecting to other networks
is currently not a user requested feature for us to make it a priority at the
How many people are working fulltime on Skype?
We have approximately 45 people working on Skype.
Why did you consider writing software for Linux?
Skype for Linux was one of the most requested developments from our user base,
but also because we see Linux as an important emerging PC desktop platform.
This is illustrated by the fact that many major vendors are starting to offer
Linux systems (HP, Sun, IBM to name just a few), and that many companies,
government institutions and local governments in Europe, Asia and elsewhere
have announced their migration to Linux. The proportion of Skype for Linux
users is still small as compared to those running it on Windows, but we
expect it to increase over the coming years.
Simply put, we want everyone to be able to run Skype and talk to their
friends, family and colleagues, regardless of what platform they use or
whether they have a computer at all. Embedded and mobile devices, some of
them on Embedded Linux, are an important future development path for Skype.
Skype is released under a proprietary license. It was mentioned in the
forums that you may be experimenting with an open source API. Can you
tell us a little more about that?
The API is going to be available to other apps over a remote call protocol
when the Skype client is running. Other apps can then call Skype functions
such as "call this contact", "send IM to this contact" and Skype also
notifies other apps about incoming calls, IM-s and other events. A simple
usage scenario would be to have a Skype Name field in address book
applications and a button for calling those persons. If you then click it, a
Skype call is placed.
You invite people to contribute translations for Skype via the forum,
which then become the property of Skype. Have you considered a more open
community approach, such as that used by the KDE Project?
We see the forum as an open community and we encourage it very much - people
upload translations, other people can immediately download and modify them.
In general, we try to maintain a friendly relation with various Linux
communities including KDE, and some Skype for Linux developers also
contribute to KDE apps as their hobby projects.
Are any of those hobby contributions related to Skype in any way?
Have you considered contributing to Qt or any other Free Software
projects as part of Skype's development?
We might do that if we get results in our work that would be of value to the
community as well as OK to publish according to our license and IP
protection policy. However, currently Skype is UI-wise not a very complex
project and most of the development effort goes into the proprietary P2P and
voice engine that are proprietary code. However, there are some interesting
utilities we have done, for example for reusing the same language files and
translations in Windows and Linux versions, that we will make available to
If an open source Skype client (not necessarily your one) could be
released as part of KDE, you would have your product shipped in almost
every Linux distribution, and localized by KDE translators. Would that not
outweigh the financial benefits of your closed source model?
Short answer: no. Getting shipped in any Linux distribution is still a small
percentage of users, as compared to Windows users. However, having said that,
we keep a close eye on the Linux community and its various business models.
We are truly multiplatform, already having Windows including Pocket PC, now
Linux and upcoming Mac, and we learn from all the users and business models
of all the platforms and try to pick the best experiences from each.
Skype currently uses Qt for the Linux GUI. Have you considered using
Qt for all three clients, and possibly integrating Skype for Linux with the
We have considered it, but currently we stay with the native toolkits for
each platform - those that our team members have most experience with.
However, the world is changing constantly and we cannot say with certainty
what UI toolkits we will be using in the next year or five years. We will
always be using the toolkit that is the most efficient for us to work with
and provides the best user experience.
Skype for Linux will not be closely integrated with KDE libraries, at least
not the core part of it. While there might be add-ons, developed by either
Skype or the users that have KDE-specific functions, we already have users
who work with Skype for Linux on many different window managers and desktop
environments, and therefore we want to stay quite desktop-independent.