Monday, January 31, 2011

Is Skype relevant anymore?

As a podcaster it's virtually impossible to avoid the need for a voip solution. No matter how much money you have to invest in you gear, if you want to do a show that involves people who are in different geographical locations you need a reliable voip solution. The standard in the podcasting world has for a while been Skype because It's easy to set up and was the only real game in town for a long time. I have spent more time than I care to add up tinkering with getting Skype to work under Linux with my recording software so I could reliably put out a show with a co-host who is in a far off land. Up until recently we used Skype to record OSMP. We only recently made the switch to mumble. Recent events have led me to ask, does anyone still need Skype?

As some of you know I am now a co-host on a show call OS Perspectives, that features a "Microsoft" guy a "Mac" guy and me the "Linux" guy. It was Esby, the "Windows" guy, that started the show and has put together the infrastructure to host the show via video copying some of the work done by Leo Laporte of the Twit Network. Naturally his "Skypeosarus" was put together with 4 computers hosting 4 instances of Skype allowing him to have 4 people cohost on his show with audio and Video. It is no small feat to put together a setup like this and he can be applauded for his effort. The only real issue we seem to have with this is that the Skype client for Linux is very out of date and doesn't support nearly as much features as it's Windows and Mac counterparts. As a result of the lack of Skype support on Linux for the last two shows we have not been able to get video from me to Esby's setup. While I haven't confirmed the cause of the issues with Skype we where able to confirm that Google's Video Chat service does work pretty painlessly and have since switched to using it for my connection to the show. We haven't, however, made the switch for the rest of the show but I haven't seen anything to show that we couldn't. In fact a recent episode of Leo Laporte's show This Week In Google had a Skype failure and was able to complete the show using Google video chat.

To speak a little on the FLOSS merits of Google's video chat service, it is built using open source standards such as XMPP, Jabber and libjingle. Libjingle is an FLOSS project created and hosted by Google and is used for voip and video over XMPP. This allows for many clients not involved with Google to support the protocol.

So this all begs the question, other than people who have built specific workflows around Skype, what it the point of using Skype over Google's video chat? I guess it's not neatly cut and dry but as far as I'm concerned, I don't see any reason to sit around and wait for Skype to catch up on Linux.

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