Peter Saint-Andre (Executive Director of the XMPP Standards Foundation) has pointed out the Free Software Foundation’s recent addition of a “Free software replacement for Skype” to its list of High Priority Free Software Projects:
Skype is a proprietary Voice-over-IP program that uses a proprietary protocol. Skype is seducing free software users into using proprietary software, often two users at a time. We do not want to encourage the creation of a Skype compatible client, but instead, we want to encourage you to create, contribute to, or promote the use of free software alternatives to Skype, such as Ekiga, and to encourage to adoption and use of free VoIP, video, and chat protocols such as SIP and XMPP/Jingle.
I have long been annoyed by Skype’s closed platform and have refused to use it despite its popularity. Skype users can only communicate with other Skype users (or PSTN users through SkypeOut) because they do not use an open standard and do not federate with other VoIP providers. This destroys much of the value proposition of using VoIP and ultimately reduces VoIP (in people’s minds) to simply “free/cheap phone calls.” In other words, Skype is helping to hold back an entire industry from innovating.
At Found Line, we use two open VoIP standards: XMPP and SIP. Google Talk provides our XMPP service (through Google Apps) and is used mainly for internal communications. However, Google Talk is connected to the public XMPP network so, just like with email, we can communicate with anyone else using the same standards. Junction Networks provides us with very reliable SIP hosting and allows us to communicate (at no cost) with anyone on any public SIP network. They also provide us with a PSTN gateway (so that we can make “normal” phone calls) and a hosted PBX (auto attendant, unlimited extensions, etc.) all at a very reasonable price.