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Reasons not to use Skype (2012) (stallman.org)
223 points by dsr12 344 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 167 comments

Another reason not to use Skype is that their support is pretty poor.

They've deleted Skype numbers from my account without warning. Someone linked my and my wife's account because we used them on the same PC, and refuse to unlink Skype and Microsoft accounts.

I'd love to find an alternative, but given that everybody already has Skype accounts the lock-in is pretty significant.

Don't much like the alternatives Stallman proposes. Using long distance phone calls seems worse than Skype, phone companies have provided governments with even more access to user data than most tech companies.

Discord might be an alternative for team/friend based conversations. They have group calling (don't need to share a server) now. Problem is that it's marketed towards gamers and so might not be fit for purpose for business purposes

Mumble is a better choice since it's open source.

I'm not sure if it's a better choice for everyone. With mumble you'd need to maintain a server, for instance.

If your primary concern is open source then mumble/jabber is probably your solution

Mumble's requirements are fairly low, you could get by with a $3/month VPS or even a RasPi. Maintenance is down to keeping the OS updated, which is trivial on pretty much any VPS Linux install, as well as Raspbian.

If you're truly paranoid there's a Mumble port for OpenBSD, though that obviously wouldn't fit Stallman's definition of Free.

Last time I tried it, you had to do stuff like generate certificates and open ports and while it wasn't too much of a big deal and improved voice quality a lot, everyone wanted to stay on Skype.

Until we moved to Discord. Which has equally good sound quality, a fantastic chat and role system, and the ability for people to just jump into your voice call instead of having to be invited (which was what killed Skype for us, for any number of people over 3).

I'm part of a bunch of guilds for just hanging out and playing video games. But I also moderate two Discord guilds for programming, containing thousands of people.

Discord's pretty sweet, in a way that Skype and Mumble simply can't compare.

I used Discord for a while when I played Rust (post apocalyptic sandbox MMO) and was a member of a clan on there. It worked great, and the Windows client is fantastic. Basically, Slack+TeamSpeak.

Mumble server hosting is ridiculously cheap. No one has to run one unless they think they are going to discuss stuff that is so sensitive that it would be worth someone's time to subvert a hosting company and monitor the channel. ... and then you can pretty much pick the country you want to buy hosting in so as to make that unlikely.

Mumble's server is harder to setup than nothing but it's still pretty minimal

We've been using Mumble for bigger conferences for almost two years now because we couldn't find a better alternative.

We tried Skype which is almost completely broken (used to work fine).

We tried multiple WebRTC solutions like appear.in which only work fine up to three people.

We tried Google hangouts, which worked fine but we didn't like the quality.

Mumble worked fine, but only if people use push-to-talk. Otherwise you get horrible noise. Every scratching goes over the line.

Skype Business supposedly works very well. We don't use it because we don't support Microsoft breaking the regular Skype.

We currently use the audio conferencing feature of (paid) slack. It works extremely well and has great noise reduction.

Stallman won't like it but Facebook Messenger has voice calling built in now and it works very well. I was calling someone in SE Asia from rural Massachusetts recently and the quality was great with very low latency. It felt like a natural conversation given the connectivity challenges on both ends.

I too have been quite pleased with Facebook calling over a 3G connection from the Middle East to North America, though I still find that FaceTime voice calls sound better (pending both parties own apple devices)

At least you should be using Whatsapp calls, which are end-to-end encrypted, and also have very good quality with the data saving option enabled.

Interesting. I can't see myself using it for work though, which the majority of my Skype calls tend to be.

My team has been using appear.in for about two years now (I introduced it to them smug).

http://appear.in/some_words_doesnt_matter <- share with whoever, instant video call

We use Skype for Business at work, however when the boss isn't watching we switch to appear.in since it works much better and doesn't require craptastic software.

SfB is pants. Quality is always crap, UI is terrible, Mac client is constantly behind, there is no really-open interface for Linux and bots, etc etc.

But, the boss will see when you're "available" straight from Outlook, which is where he lives. It's not an IM tool, it's (yet another) instrument of workforce control.

Don't even get me started on the mac client... constantly drops calls, other end complains that sound quality is terrible despite high quality headphones, screen sharing stops suddenly mid presentation, can't see scheduled meeting directly in app, and overall horrible UX.

Also, despite the rigid security policy where I work, the mac client stores my password in the keychain.

Signal has voice calling as well. The bitrate is a bit low for my taste but it's pretty damned reliable, long distance as well.

the begin of the conversation is a bit lacking though, you need to wait few seconds and few "do you hear me?" tests. I don't use it often but happened not hearing the other side in the middle of the conversation, need to investigate this further.

I don't have connection problem with Signal when I use it. The problem I do have is that the call will almost always drop before a few minutes are up.

why are people downvoting this?

You don't need to be Facebook friends to complete a call but I can still see that expectation being an obstacle to establishing one. Is there a space for a very simple WebRTC call application? It seems like everyone is focused on video calling or more full-featured products.

I'd love it if the default was to use some very lightweight WebRTC app where you just created a new link for each conversation.

I don't think it's likely to happen any time soon unfortunately.

Regarding Facebook, it still feels weird, I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why. I just want to keep "friends" and "business" totally separate.

How was this service Mozilla once included in their browser called, something from Telefonica? Worked pretty well for me. Maybe they ditched it to early?

No as long as it is not supported by mobile safari, thereby cutting a large swath of situations where such an app would be useful. We've had WebRTC calls as "experimental" for years now in https://awwapp.com/ solely because of this limitation.

Once you invest more in working around this by having native clients, it makes sense for your product to do more.

Discord is working on full P2P video calling. Overall its not a replacement yet, but its very convenient.

There are a lot of games and software communities that use Discord quite productively, significantly better than what Mumble or Teamspeak have ever allowed for. Just having actual textual channels has made it so dev talk about modding, server administration and all things technical is just a few clicks away. Discords devs do impliment features that are useful for other developers, such as code markdown support. And unlike Skype, you can actually talk to the devs in the official Discord Devs server if you catch them. I'm not an important person at all, and have talked to the CEO and half the teams devs casually.

You can do: ```javascript var x = "y"; ```

and it'l syntax highlight. There is a clear roles permissions system, with support for multiple channels both textual and voice, full API support for building bots, and Discord uses their own service for development communication.

Of course its not a one-size fits all, Skype is more business oriented, so it looks more proffessional to use, but Discord is well on its way to be an actually better alternative from a technological standpoint. That sweet P2P video and audio will be great, and they've stated in the past they actually can't host that stuff through their servers, because even just proxying that much video data is way too costly.

Not to say its all perfect, some of the design decisions, such as making it so normal user accounts have the same access to the API as bots do (Though you'l be banned it 'caught'), makes it so users can easily just run a chat spammer. Its a fundamental issue because the program itself works in that manner. They also hate modding and plugin support, with some of the less experienced devs creating tirades against Javascript injection software like BetterDiscord, which allows you to add in custom CSS, and make your own javascript plugins to manipulate the DOM. Even though its incredibly useful, even basic things like changing font size of the program are only doable through that. They very much so have an Apple-esque idea that they know better, but it seems they've made a compromise (so far) that they haven't broken injection abilities yet.

i was thinking about creating a alternative but hardly anyone is willing to pay for that now.

slack probably should be able to create a full replacement for lync, (skype for businnes).

Without an on-premise option you wouldn't be able to get in to most organisations that have Lync deployed. Feature wise it wouldn't be too hard to match, but you might go crazy trying to code Outlook/Exchange integrations.

> Without an on-premise option you wouldn't be able to get in to most organisations that have Lync deployed.

I used to think that, too, but with the rise of cloud offerings like Office 365, many orgs are starting to see that running your own servers for Sharepoint/Exchange/Unified Communication isn't worth it anymore.

Many, perhaps, but zero of those subject to (for one example) HIPAA data sharing rules.

Stallman claims Skype isn't encrypted end-to-end and then suggests using "free" alternatives that are not in the least bit security concious or end-to-end encrypted.

Also the "long distance phone card" suggestion ignores that every major telephone company in the US was caught providing information without any legal obligation to do so.

This articles seems to date back to 2012, most likely before the Snowden revelations. He probably have changed his mind since.

Also plenty of proprietary firmware being used on the telecom hardware used to transmit the call

Of course, in the free software world the only thing counting is if the software is under a free license. All other properties can only be used to attack non-free software

For once I agree with RS; I haven't used Skype in ages, particularly because it's just crappy software.

Honestly, I'd view Skype as malware at this point, the number of exploits is too damn high and it barely integrates with anything ever. It's the kind of integration you'd normally see from a cheap car purchase where the Entertainment System is a iPhone 2 taped to the seats and the trunk smells like dead raccoon.

In fact, like java it tries to install malware and other browser toolbars when you install it. Microsoft reached the bottom and is still digging.

I agree it needs improvement and we should have alternatives but it's the best in terms of video and audio quality/compression. The UX can be improved.

Skype Business maybe. Regular Skype is crap. We're currently using slack for our team which works great. Privately I user FaceTime and appear.in but that's not good for group calls.

"The most obvious alternative is a long-distance phone card."

What part of Stallman's position makes him fine with communicating and encouraging people to communicate using switches running proprietary software?

For that matter, how does he justify using the Internet rather than anything other than community networks running open source routing software?

> What part of Stallman's position makes him fine with communicating and encouraging people to communicate using switches running proprietary software?

Richard Stallman is probably a direct descendant of the Massachusetts Puritans, which explains everything. No one ever characterized the Puritans as having a logically consistent ideology.

Seriously, we owe him a very large debt of gratitude for igniting the open source software movement. He is responsible for GCC and the GPL, and he attracted a group of very talented developers around him. Let's cut him some slack.

He explains here: https://stallman.org/stallman-computing.html

Switches are OK because they're not computers he maintains himself.

Via your mouth (for phones) or your browser (for the internet), you can control what information you give/send properly.

If you have code executing on your machine, you can not control what information that code will take (unless you know that it is 100% safely sandboxed)

And AFAIK, Stallman doesn't spend a lot of time "directly" connected to the wide web, as tracking leads to forcing the user to give information they don't want to give (short random distinct interactions with the internet are fine, as long as they are short enough to not allow for inferences to be made)

Stallman doesn't really have a coherent ideology. If you start pulling at the thread of logic for a bit, it comes apart like a knit sweater.

People make a name for themselves by taking a strong stand on something, no matter how unpragmatic or unrealistic (and therefore, in my view 'wrong'). I don't doubt that he is intelligent, principled and abides mostly by his dogma (or at least thinks he does), or that he is isn't sincere. Obviously he's made some good contributions as well and so has kind of earned the right to have an outsized opinion. Nor do I doubt that it's important to have a variety of voices on such matters, and that often points raised by these types of people are important for us to consider.

BUT - it's best not to engage these types on ideas because it's really about dogma. It's best to grapple with the psychology of such people, why they chose to be who they are, the self-identity they derive out of having such positions etc..

In a way, these types often serve as good 'devil's advocates'.

If they were even in charge of anything it would be mostly destructive, but they can contribute a lot by challenging accepted norms.

You have to take these guys with a few grains of salt.

In much the same way, in politics, you see some opposition antagonists with some good ideas, representing underserved groups. Though they would make terrible leaders, their opinions should be noted, I think.

For example, I'm not worried about Skype at all - but I was not aware of some of those finer points, and they are worth knowing about.

How does he feel about landline phones? The entire thing is just as closed source as Skype and even more easily monitored.

And assuming he is okay with landline, would Stallman call a cellphone? What if it was a free software cellphone?

While I get your point, most traditional landline networks do encryption at the premises. Look at, for example, the Secure Terminal Equipment ISDN phone used by defense agencies. To state the obvious, the alternative of provider enabled encryption would be a bad option anyway; the track record of most telcos doesn't inspire a lot of faith in their ability to keep anything a secret.

It wouldn't be hard, and certainly not a capacity strain, to get some old modems and haul encrypted PCM in realtime across them. Or even to roll your own PSK/FSK standard to transport said PCM over. There's no packet format or anything you're necessarily limited to.

As for cell phones themselves, I can certainly see the threat. Even without going into Batman-esque theories of someone putting malicious software on your phone that activates the mic when it's idle, it's well known that the cellular networks make extensive use of GPS capabilities. With access to an operator's network, it would probably be relatively trivial to build a very detailed history of someone's whereabouts.

Is there any usable alternative for voice calls? Ring and Tox had problems setting up connection from android to debian linux last time I tried both of them.

I really want to replace Skype with something so I can stop using Google Play. Signal is not an option as it is only available via Google Play too.

[0] https://ring.cx/ [1] https://tox.chat/

I've found matrix[0] to work pretty well. Main downside is that the calls themselves are not end-to-end encrypted, but there is end-to-end encryption for the call setup. Riot[1] is available via f-droid[2]. You can host your own homeserver to prevent metadata leakage if you want, and run the TURN/STUN server to setup the calls if one of both parties are behind a NAT.

[0] http://matrix.org/

[1] http://riot.im

[2] https://f-droid.org/wiki/page/im.vector.alpha

How about wire? https://wire.com

So I had a flick through the website, and I fail to understand how this service makes any money.

This automatically makes me suspicious that either they'll eventually start collecting data, or the service will disappear as soon as they are acquired.

At least they explicitly promote with "No profiling or data gathering" with a link to https://twitter.com/wire/status/768797320792117248

Also they promote Spotify

I seem to recall that they aim for a freemium-ish model, i.e. sell extra features or charge for features designed for businesses/teams etc.

Looks great, I was not aware they had open source client.

Given that they were forced to release their Axolotl (aka Signal protocol) under GPLv3+, they try to add some strange restrictions [2]:

"Additionally, if you choose to build an Open Source App, certain restrictions apply, as follows: a. You agree not to change the way the Open Source App connects and interacts with our servers ..."

As I understand I am free to ignore any additions to GPL.

[1] https://medium.com/@wireapp/axolotl-and-proteus-788519b186a7... [2] https://github.com/wireapp/wire

I read it as that only applies when you connect to their servers, and is the usage policy/Terms of Service for their servers, not a code license.

I also recommend Wire. I tried multiple alternatives for Skype and Wire was the only one which had good call quality and clients for all major platforms.

Signal is available for desktop browser, although I don't know how well works.

Linphone is a decent alternative, it supports both voice and video calls.

It sucks - but as is always the case with free vs nonfree software - there are few alternatives.

Among the few alternatives available are Google (hangouts) and Facebook.

Stallman waves his hand and mentions Jitsi and Mumble which aren't comparable in features to Skype (Chat + Voice + video + desktop sharing on all platforms including mobile). Jitsi does look promising but not quite complete.

A chat/voice app is like a social network, it has a critical mass so I can't switch unless everyone else does or my alternative is interoperable.

Software being free as in speech is perhaps twice as important to me as it is for the average user, but that still means I'd rather have a polished proprietary app that spies on me, than an unpolished free alternative. Skype is exceptionally bad, so shouldn't be too hard to beat in terms of polish.

But did you _actually_ try the alternatives?

I've been using mumble for more than a decade now, and I've pushing it into 3 working places as a substitute to skype, asterix and lync (the microsoft voip solution).

It's not really oriented for 1-1 conversation, which is odd to use at first, but once people start to use channels and the built-in chat you hardly go back.

The latency and voice quality is stunning, even across lousy links. There's simply no match. The built-in mic wizard is also well designed. If people follow the setup correctly, you can have hour-long conversations across the globe with 10 people and it's absolutely fantastic. I work in research, and I've aggressively pushed to do long phone conferences over mumble for exactly this reason.

With some colleagues we even setup some channels that broadcast with PTT, and it's genuinely fun if you're spread across offices. You can decide if you want to participate by joining or not the right hierarchy. This is something is often done for lan parties, but turns out you can find other uses too ;)

Like I said, the main shortcoming is that mumble was never designed for 1-1 conversations as you would expect in skype. We hack it around by creating temporary channels. I've always meant to improve the UI in this regard, but we found that the temporary channel approach has advantages as well [you can invite other people in a call - for one].

With outdated hardware we still manage to hold >100 of conversations over a single server, as basically it's only network bound.

You have a point that mumble does only audio, but fortunately this is what I care the most. We (unfortunately) still have to use other software for desktop sharing, but generally still use mumble for audio.

I don't know if Mumble (or Ventrilo, or Teamspeak, or Discord) are really comparable.

They require you run your own server (although Discord abstracts that), that everyone know the server details, and that everyone be authenticated for your server in some manner.

They're great for playing video games, but Skype matches up a lot better with what a lot of people use it for – making phone calls.

True, but I'd like to mention that these are still valid options for companies and teams. Not to mention that latency will inevitably be superior with a local server.

I'm not sure there's a way around it. Skype is pretty much centralized now. Alternatives using NAT-piercing solutions never worked as reliably for me, and the ID still needs a central directory anyway.

What we ended up doing for flexibility is letting our mumble server open (passwordless access), but speaking is disabled in the root channel, so it's useless for strangers. Secondary channels are password protected, guests cannot join, but teams can set up their hierarchy as they see fit.

When we invite a guest, we just point him to the mumble installer and our server. When he pops up, we drag him into the right channel. No password necessary. It's a fairly smooth experience. Definitely not as fast as a skype group call the first time, but just as good after that. In fairness, this beats pretty much any dedicated conference system I had to use elsewhere.

The channel permissions in mumble are pretty flexible, so there are multiple workflows possible.

Nope - didn't try them after reading the spec list to see if they check the boxes. They didn't as far as I could see, or they made terrible marketing!

The problem with replacing Skype within an organization is that it can't just be better at some things, it needs to at least do all the things. We also already use other software for desktop sharing, and dont call to phones, so that's handled - but the biggest hurdle when evaluating alternatives is to get a good app for 1-1 chat, group chat, 1-1 calls and group calls, that handles persistent groups (e.g per project, recurrent meetings,..), persistent (server based) chats, and does all of this without requiring multiple contact lists for different tasks (e.g one for voice and one for chat would be a complete no-go)

Also, the fear of crap software in a large corporation is zero, and the switching cost would be nonzero, so the alternative would also have to save money through efficiency or provide some other very tangible benefit such as reduced risk of Trojans, otherwise there would never be a switch.

Hangouts is the best candidate I have found yet, but it's google, and not really better than Skype.

This is a "non computer business" so hosting anything would likely be out of the question, as would anything other than a "run this msi and install the app from AppStore on your phone" kind of setup for each client.

I understand your position, but I cannot see things change in your favor anytime soon. This leaves you only to web-based solutions, and most of those will invariably suck for a long time to come (if not forever).

> Among the few alternatives available are Google (hangouts) and Facebook.

I wouldn't want my communication go via exactly those two firms that suck all the data they can out of everything they can get hold of.

I'd consider Signal, Wire, and possibly Telegram more suitable alternatives (all free, and at least as polished as Skype, which isn't saying much... :-)

Thanks, will check those out (those all look more promising feature/polish than the RMS ones tbh). Reading reviews and comparisons it seems they are all still a bit rough or lacking some feature compared to Skype, but geting there. Even if none is a viable option now, one can at least hope one will be one soon.

Switching an organization from Skype I get one chance. It can't have one missing feature or 90% the audio quality or reliability of Skype, the alternative has to beat Skype if I'm to convince anyone to switch. I need to wait until then actually do.

There's also bluejeans, though I have no idea what their security situation is.


Skype is a horror show, so really like you say anything is better. If video isn't required, Signal is probably the best bet. Would be great actually if Signal supported video as well...

Reasons to use Skype: - you need to talk to someone, and by the time you've explained why you don't want to use Skype you could have already been done

We're talking about the long term here :D

One minute lost by saying you don't want to use Skype might give you the benefit of convincing another person to join you video conference platform choice!

The only reason I need to not use Skype is that it is shit.

Not as shit as Skype for business

Tell us how you really feel

Whats wrong with "Skype for Business?"

Skype? Ah, 2012. We're now in 2017, and in this country Skype just isn't the standard (I'm not saying it isn't used anymore). What is the standard? Well on phones, people seem to be using WhatsApp, with a movement who swapped to Telegram. There's some people who use FaceTime, but they're Apple users. There's some people who advocate Signal, but I know nobody who uses that. Then for gaming there is Discord which I started using in 2016 which Just Works (tm), has a feature set and UI from this decennium, and doesn't require one to run their own server (unlike TS/Mumble/Ventrilo/..). Finally, in 2016 I swapped to a different phone plan; unlimited phone calls is part of my (very cheap) subscription for my phone. The disadvantage of the unlimited plan is GSM's 'bad' quality (I generally don't have an issue w/it), and it is 100% being logged by telcos & nation states. But so is Skype.

To be fair, I don't think RMS would be happy with any of my choices. Discord is open source, but the servers aren't. WhatsApp is proprietary, and owned by Facebook (Skype is proprietary and owned by Microsoft). Signal is only distributed via GCM which is a proprietary platform (F-Droid is blocked).

This is true of all IM that isn't based on open protocols and has mandatory end-to-end encryption. Which is why I use tox [0].

[0] https://tox.chat/

I prefer Matrix[0] since it has some nice features (encryption, message history, multiple devices, audio, video, files), supports most major platforms, can be self hosted and importantly, supports push notifications so your battery isn't destroyed like it is with Antox.

[0]: http://matrix.org

But alas, it sucks (no support at all!) at ipv6 (e.g.: On a ds-lite scenario), it is federated instead of decentralized, and its end-to-end encryption is optional.

IPv6 is indeed bad but:

- "federated instead of decentralized": I believe Matrix's federation implementation qualifies as decentralised. There's some centralisation (homeservers) but not much.

- "its end-to-end encryption is optional": I don't really see this as a problem. If you want it, you have it. If you don't, you don't. Sometimes end-to-end encryption isn't desirable, in a business environment where you need communications to be auditable for example.

> IPv6 is indeed bad

It's terrible, and the reason I don't use matrix. While behind ds-lite, the only option I'd have is to run my node on an untrusted location (eg: a rented server).

> "its end-to-end encryption is optional": I don't really see this as a problem. If you want it, you have it. If you don't, you don't. Sometimes end-to-end encryption isn't desirable, in a business environment where you need communications to be auditable for example.

Sure, but in a post-snowden climate, I can't recommend a solution where end-to-end is optional to anybody. The problem is that when it is optional, people will readily downgrade to point-per-point encryption when they experience any issues. It's terrible to give less tech-literate people the option of insecure communication.

Open Source Minisip (discontinued?) offered encryption over VOIP calls: http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/minisip

It is amazing that Skype still has not been re-engineered and and open source lone released. http://www.oklabs.net/skype-reverse-engineering-the-long-jou...

The problem with his first argument is that it is a logical fallacy (affirming a disjunct). Just because one does not say A, does not mean that it automatically must be B. He says "most likely", but even this is not certain. I agree, it feels that it must be true. But then again this is an inductive fallacy. Simply because most companies we know that have acted in such a way actually were eavesdropping on its customers, one cannot say with certainty that this is a general rule.

Big fancy words with zero content and a complete lack of arguments.

> He says "most likely", but even this is not certain.

That is the exact meaning of most likely.

> Simply because most companies we know that have acted in such a way actually were eavesdropping on its customers, one cannot say with certainty that this is a general rule.

It would be plain idiotic to not assume the worst until proven otherwise, especially after everything we learned in the past few years.

He said "almost certainly".

If Skype could not eavesdrop on calls, they would most certainly say so when ask —because not saying so would make them look bad. It's then a simple matter of probability theory to deduce that their silence most probably means it can eavesdrop on calls.

Affirming a disjunct is perfectly legitimate approximation in this case.

Good points.

Check out as a possible alternative:

1) riot.im 2) matrix.org

Reason to use skype:

So your dead account doesn't get immediately compromised and you screw your friends over in the process as your account starts sending out malware-infested links.

glares at the seven or so users in his blocked list, users that jumped ship to Telegram and left their Skype accounts open to exploitation

Sounds like you should delete your account when you go inactive, and sounds like you should GTFO if their security is that terrible.

Not much else has quality video chat at high resolutions/ Hangouts likes to drop out. It's one of the reasons Google Helpouts failed so hard, Hangouts utterly sucked as the video chat intermediary.

Using a strong and unique password would be a good step in not getting compromised.

Not for skype, i've seen spammy messages from tons of contacts, pretty sure it's yet another hole in skype they can't patch https://hub.zhovner.com/geek/how-skype-fixes-security-vulner...

I use the Matrix messaging client riot.fm instead

What is riot.fm? Maybe https://riot.im/?

Is it able to do at least audio calls?

Riot can do audio and video calls, I've had good luck with it (currently gets used between my friendgroup instead of phonecalls). Check out http://matrix.org/ for the server implementation details and https://riot.im for the biggest client. Currently, it only supports 1-on-1 audiocalls/videocalls. No group calls yet.

Forewarning that while it supports end-to-end encryption for the chatting bits, the actual audio data is not encrypted. The call request/advertisement can be encrypted though!

And again, Stallman is right. Despite how much convenient, cheap, and easy Skype could be.

P.S. Is today the "day against Stallman" in Hacker News? Come on.

It's hard to take this article seriously when it starts out with stuff like "A nonfree program denies users freedom, which is unjust in itself." If you don't want to use Skype, I can respect that. But to accuse the developers of moral failure just because they didn't make their software free... That is an absurd view of morality.

The author is Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation. He has spent the last 30 years trying to rid the world of proprietary software; first by working on free alternatives in the form of GNU and later through his activism work.

The Open Source movement grew out of a group of pro-Free Software people who felt that Stallman's morality-based arguments were ineffective at convincing businesses to switch to FOSS.

Modern internet companies and countless startups would not exist were it not for Stallman's initial efforts over 30 years ago and his "absurd" view of morality.

Your entire comment is a reverse ad hominem. Just because Richard Stallman did a lot of great things doesn't make his view of morality any less absurd. There's nothing unjust about a Software company choosing to develop and market "non-free" Software.

> But to accuse the developers of moral failure just because they didn't make their software free... That is an absurd view of morality.

Why? It's as reasonable as saying they have a moral failing when they've failed according to my moral view in any other case.

when RMS uses the term, he means Free as in Freedom not as in free beer.

What he means by that is software that allows their users to: use it, study, modify and share it.

He doesn't mean price. If skype would charge a million dollars but still provided those 4 freedoms RMS wouldn't have a problem with it.

That philosophy has brought the world Linux, Apache, WebKit, LibreOffice, Ruby, PHP, MySQL, MongoDB and many other GPL software.... and has obivously influenced the creation of Open Source that althoug are similar in practice their underlying philosophy is different.

Could Skype have been be monetized effectively if it was open source?

Yes? Telecom infrastructure can be costly. Many people use skype for international POTS calling.

Does anyone have experience with Wire? It sounds good:

* open source, code on github

* e2e encryption (apparently derivative of Signal's Axolotl double ratchet)

* chat/voice/video, and group chats (all encrypted always)

* based in Switzerland

* clients for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, Web

* can sign up with phone number or email or username

* reasonably responsive on twitter

* yada yada yada

I use it on iOS and quite like it, but not that many people on it yet :-/

I think the main reason not to use skype is the lack of network effect.

Since so few people use skype, everybody else has little motivation to use skype, ad nauseum.

Honestly, the only people I've seen that use skype are recruiters. Other than that it seems pretty much dead.

At my current work place, Skype and Lync (or Skype for Business) are what we used for team communication. It works great until we need to onboard/offboard people. I also need to set status to DO NOT DISTURB because I wanted to avoid the constant ding ding ding notification.

At a previous workplace, Skype and IRC are used (IRC are for mass communication, whereas Skype is more for personal-level communication).

What is a good solution that allows dialing to pots? Google voice and what else?

Piggybacking the question to state a general info:

There are voip operators like the italian mtalk that give you free local national numbers, free calls between users of the same provider, but the call is not encrypted.

This have the good thing that anyone can choose the preferred provider, you can receive calls also from "traditional" phones.

A phone number is like a mailbox, it's clearly provider independent, but sadly it's often non free calling between different operators.

Roll your own with any VOIP software?

Not a fan of Skype, but in one of Stallman's other articles he says:

"Public agencies exist for the people, not for themselves. When they do computing, they do it for the people. They have a duty to maintain full control over that computing so that they can assure it is done properly for the people. They must never allow control over the state's computing to fall into private hands."

This guy has a lot of faith in government and his treatise actually sounds rather Marxist. History is littered with public agencies that obstensiby exist for the "people," but in fact exist for no other reason than to enforce the power of the state. I don't trust government -- I endure it. Government is necessary in a way not dissimilar to the necessity of colonoscopies.

Skype is owned by Microsoft. No worries it will die out eventually.

Microsoft has been around for almost 50 years, though. They must do something right?

Microsoft has acquired very few products, and of those a shockingly slim number have succeeded.

I can only think of Excel as being the real survivor here. Others, like SoftImage, were a fleeting acquisition. Many more were buried alive.

DOS is a acquired product, for $50k? :-)

They only finally disable cmd.exe in the latest update.

.bat files still run.

Somehow I overlooked that, but it's true, that's their first and most significant acquisition.

They didn't buy the company or talent, mind you, just the software.

Maybe they'll accidentally delete the production database and then realize they don't have any backups. You know, as is tradition?


I feel Skype is abandoned by Microsoft, but I do not have other option. Same with Google Voice.

Google Voice is stagnant and I am scared about losing it. Are there any other comparable services I can jump ship to before I lose my number?

Agreed, use anything else (but whatsapp)

Understanding what Microsoft does with Skype tells you everything about Microsoft.

The only reasonable conclusion: Switch from Windows to Linux.

Whats up so many Stallman posts lately?

This is apparently from 2012 but not labelled as such.

May explain why he didn't mention webrtc, unless he has some misgivings about it.

IIRC isn't he against most JavaScript due to the fact that you can't easily dynamically replace a JS module with another?

That, and most of it has no clear licensing. Thus i suspect he consider them potential judicial tar pits...


Please don't take these threads into generic criticism of the author. They're not good for HN because they're so predictable.

In Spain we say: "When the wise points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger."

I'm against Stallman's dogmatic positions as well but to dismiss his views by saying he's on the autism spectrum is an ad hominem attack. I've seen this argument used a lot against technologically sophisticated people but that only shows that the respondent can't rebut the arguments and hence resort to personal attacks.

If it's a spectrum then aren't we all "on it" at some point?

Good for you Richard. Still don't care

I am not sure who this guy is, but he seems a little out of this world.

He serves an important purpose. He lays forth a philosophical framework for software freedom, and makes predictions that people don't take seriously and gives advice that nobody would ever practically follow. He also has this annoying habit of being right in the end. He represents an ideal we'll never reach, but we should always aim back toward.

> He also has this annoying habit of being right in the end

I'm not familiar with his predictions, so can you give a few examples.


This seemed like a far-fetched dystopia when I first read it. Now, Kindle et al. are not far away from this.

I also remember reading some piece from Stallman on software patents, from the eighties or early nineties. Well before software patent trolls, etc.

This. Very much echoes my thoughts when I first read Right to Read, which I believe was at a job I left early 2000, so sometime before that.

And then the scenario stated becoming, if not true, the a helluva lot closer. And the irony of Orwell books being removed remotely from Kindle's in 2009 [0] was evident and tied into the dystopia feel of it all.

[0] http://mobile.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18...

The first patent troll was around in 1879: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/11/05/the-origina...

Yeah, it wasn't a software patent, but. It's not hard to see something that's happened before and "predict" it could happen again.

RMS is a legend. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman. Every one would be living in a little bit of a different world and all the computer tech guys would be living in a completely different world with out RMS.

"Every one would be living in a little bit of a different world and all the computer tech guys would be living in a completely different world with out RMS."

Someone else would've likely done the same thing sooner or later.

Free software was not necessarily an inevitability, but efforts to accelerate that certainly pushed it forward.

The problem now is this rampant hostility towards all proprietary software of any form for any purpose. The FSF is still fighting the same pointless war against proprietary operating systems when the real threat is IoT junk, cars, and medical devices full of unauditable code.

free software and the web both happened at the right place and the right time. do you really think the web would be what it is today if you needed to buy a $10k webserver from IBM to host a site?

sure, someone else would likely have eventually come up with the concept of free software, but would it have missed the critical mass of the early web? the idea that free software didn't play a large part in the modern technology landscape is just wrong.

"but would it have missed the critical mass of the early web"

You should probably hold a slightly lower opinion of your fellow human. We're rather well-known to go after any possibility of free things, and critical mass was more along the lines of the days of Napster (when, hey, FREE MUSIC!)

He is quite famous in software circles [0].

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

Stallman warned people in detail about the dangers of putting everything in "the cloud" years and years before everyone started putting their photos in the cloud, getting hacked, and celebrities' nude photos being leaked on the internet. If you think he's crazy about a topic just wait 5 years, you'll admit he's right.

Also obligatory xkcd : https://www.xkcd.com/743/

> If you think he's crazy about a topic just wait 5 years, you'll admit he's right.

2012 → 2017 : yep after Snowden leaks in 2013 that confirmed Microsoft joined PRISM in 2007, the fear of eavesdropping in Skype does not seem unfunded anymore.

We could make the same argument against cars and airplanes. Before those were invented exactly zero people died in auto or airplane accidents. The cloud as a concept isn't bad -- some implementations of it are.

have you heard of GNU?

He's a software Luddite, he basically wants all computing to be like in the 70's, when he enjoyed hacking on ITS, and people would just share software freely. Everything beyond that is evil to him.


While I don't disagree that he sounds, in general, like a bit of a douche, you can hardly say that this rider makes him an asshole.

He lays out, reasonably, the conditions under which he will speak. He asks for tea, and Pepsi, not Coke.

Seems utterly reasonable to me.

So if Coca Cola is the only thing available, he will just refuse. I personally prefer Coke, but I'm not going to walk off stage if I am offered Pepsi. A bit rock-starish if you ask me.

I think it's really too harsh to criticise him like that—He's obviously autistic, so people who deal with him should be more forgiving of this kind of behaviour.

Plenty of vegetarians would refuse meat on moral grounds, why not this?

> A bit rock-starish if you ask me.

If you read the riders of actual rock stars, you will find that RMS's rider isn't that extreme. He doesn't even require M&M's sorted by color[1].

Most hired performers have specific riders that detail exactly what will be provided by the venue/etc. Detailing your interactions as specifically as possible in an actual contract removes ambiguity and prevents mistakes and misunderstandings.

[1] http://brianlord.org/2014/08/21/the-surprising-reason-rock-b...

I can't believe there's anywhere he'd speak where Pepsi isn't available. Just go and buy some from the store.

His objection to Coke is a moral one, not one based on taste.

`A supply of tea with milk and sugar would be nice. If it is tea I really like, I like it without milk and sugar. With milk and sugar, any kind of tea is fine. I always bring tea bags with me, so if we use my tea bags, I will certainly like that tea without milk or sugar.

If I am quite sleepy, I would like two cans or small bottles of non-diet Pepsi. (I dislike the taste of coke, and of all diet soda; also, there is an international boycott of the Coca Cola company for killing union organizers in Colombia and Guatemala; see killercoke.org.) However, if I am not very sleepy, I won't want Pepsi, because it is better if I don't drink so much sugar.`



I wouldn't want to be the guy who arranges a Torvalds-Stallman meeting. These two are quite passionate and disagree about something that Stallman spent his life preaching. It wouldn't go well.

They've met in 1999! Torvalds plays with his children while RMS is busy being RMS


"A nonfree program denies users freedom, which is unjust in itself. "

This is the worst reason to not use Skype.

The remaining reasons about surveillance etc. are reasonable reasons to not use Skype.

"Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved." - Stallman's blog is not giving me the freedom to distribute the blog as please. It is infringing on my freedom.

Anyone else find this ironic / hilarious?

Why would that be ironic ? It's ensuring others receive the same freedom for the copy you make of the page, which is also the essence of the GPL license, and the whole philosophy of the FSF.

My issue is with the no-modification part. This is the exact argument he gives for not using some software - that users are not free to modify the software and hence it is malicious.

Have you heard of the FSF? It's not called the free everything foundation for a reason. There's no irony or contradiction here.

Your freedom to do what exactly? Misrepresenting Stallman's views? Preventing your readers to copy and distribute the page you gave them?

I can say the same argument about commercial software. They do not want you to modify their software for you to inject say malware in them. Just cos they don't want you to do that, it doesn't make their software not free.

Stallman is an advocate of copyleft, which that condition falls in line with. It's similar to the GPL license that has to be shipped verbatim with GPL code and places restrictions on how the project can be distributed (eg source must be available upon request).

What you're asking to do is akin to copyfree (eg BSD) which is a different type of "free".

From what I see, copyleft strictly allows for modification too, as long as the derived work also is licensed under the same terms. His clause prevents any modification.

He allows free copying with conditions. Those conditions don't see harsh given most sites don't even permit what RMS has allowed - even modifications aside.

It really sounds more like you have an axe to grind with RMS himself rather than with the terms of his website.

Surely you still have freedom to distribute it as you wish. He just wants it to make sure you attribute the source, which ethically you should anyway.

If the post were GNU Public Licensed, which additionally forces you to release any text that quotes his text under the same license, then I'd be inclined to agree with you.

If you find Stallman's views unacceptable/laughable, that Copyright notice will not help you in your cause

"Skype requires the use of a client program that is not free software; in other words, the users don't control it — it controls them.

A nonfree program denies users freedom, which is unjust in itself. Making the ethical issue sharper, for you to use Skype is to encourage someone else to use Skype, which means you're pressuring someone else to surrender freedom as well. This is plenty of reason to refuse to use Skype, but there are more reasons."

How it pains to read such texts. "Everything that's not open source is evil."

Your use of "open source" in summarising RMS' opinion is rather unfortunate and leads me to think that you don't know his positions very well.

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