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Signal partners with Microsoft to bring end-to-end encryption to Skype (signal.org)
794 points by Aissen 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 331 comments





The thing is. How will Microsoft and Skype handle backdoors now. As far as I understood the reason Microsoft broke Skype so badly was because they used centralised servers with backdoors for countries who wanted them. Not always the good countries.

But this. This baffles me. Deeply.


Microsoft used centralised servers because the Skype prior to that was a curse to mobile devices running on battery power. Particularly cellphones.

Skype worked as a p2p network, where some peers where marked as super peers and would help with peers behind firewalls (UDP-holepunching), and routing through the super peer. If your phone became a super peer, you could expect to essentially work like a server, with the "benefits" of increased bandwidth usage and power usage. Not exactly what you want as a mobile user.

So Microsoft had to change the architecture (which wasn't designed with mobile devices in mind) into a more centralised approach that could work with mobile devices.


This doesn't explain why after the change Skype started routing calls between machines on the same LAN through Microsoft servers.

It is difficult to make a p2p app on a mobile device work even between devices on the same LAN.

A simplified explanation: Mobile devices will often ignore almost all incoming network traffic to reduce battery usage. The only way to reliably communicate with the device is through a centralized push notification service (e.g. APN and GCM).


I tried to make a demo app to perform very simple HTTP p2p and found this difficult on iOS. When an app is backgrounded you have ~17 seconds to stop execution or the OS will kill any active threads UNLESS the activity is among the Apple permitted exceptions. (Note that there is no iOS SyncThing app). In Android it is possible to use IntentService as a single threaded background HTTP server. It works for the most part but can be a little flakey. I'm not 100% sure how the OpenGarden SDK accomplishes this but I'm interested. My guess is that it makes heavy use of Bluetooth, which is one of the Apple permitted exceptions to the backgrounding rule.

> there is no iOS SyncThing app

There’s fsync() but it only syncs when you launch the app - what I think you meant is “there’s no continuously syncing iOS SyncThing app”.


Yes, thanks for the clarification. Continuous/background syncing is the difficult task.

Why not perform the invoking and setup of the call via a server, but then perform the actual call on p2p once the device is awake and the app on the foreground?

I am not sure why maintaining a TCP connection to Google or Apple is somewhat more battery friendly then maintaining it to your own server, or providing a TCP-server to provide some service for someone else. (UDP is different here)

I am using CSipSimple to my own server, battery usage is the same. Yes this is anecdotal evidence, but one can always check.


I guess this changes the moment you have 100 apps, each doing 'just a quick ping to my server time to time'.

Unfortunate result is hundred of apps waking up the phone ever 20 seconds and transmitting data nonstop. Sigh.


SyncThing seems to do fine on my smartphone in my home LAN.

One thing that might explain this is that your phone could be pulling data from your computer, rather than your computer trying to connect to your phone to push data to it.

Quit the b/s, will you. It's not difficult at all.

You use a central server to do the discovery and bootstrap the connection between two devices. For each device it looks like they are connecting out. This works for UDP and this works for TCP. It works both for NAT'ed and LAN peers. For the latter it works 100% of time. This is a 10 year old tech. It worked back then and it works now.


> Quit the b/s, will you.

We ban accounts that are uncivil like this, and you've done it a lot in the past, though happily not in the recent past, so please just don't do it at all.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I disagree with your assessment of my remark as "uncivil".

If I read you correctly, you seem to have significantly lowered the plank for what you ban people for. What the OP said was a complete factual garbage showing an utter lack of understanding of the subject he is so confidently commenting on. So this was, by any conventional definition of the term, a bullshit. How can this conceivably be a cause for a ban?


The bar hasn't changed. "Quit the b/s will you" was obviously an uncivil slap. If you don't think it is, please adjust your standard to the one that applies here, when commenting here, if you want to keep commenting here.

It's easy to point out that a statement is wrong without being disrespectful, if you want to, and so neither damage the community nor discredit the truth with personal bad behavior. That way we all can learn something.

Perceptions of what's uncivil can vary for legitimate reasons, e.g. differing cultural standards—HN is a highly international community. But for that very reason, we need people to err on the side of being respectful. The alternative leads to wars and ultimately the death of the forum.


I've been on HN for over 10 years. I also spoke with you over email under my real name more than once and I have a very high opinion of how you handle things in moderator's capacity. Which is why I must say that I find these ban threats very surprising, misplaced and disconcerting.

> differing cultural standards

Well, that's exactly the problem, isn't it?

What passes for normal "civil" behavior in countries like States and Canada looks like a completely fake way to express sentiments in other parts of the world. If someone asks "how are you?", they, more often than not, actually want to know how you are, not soliciting the "I'm fine" response.

What I said in the comment you killed I would absolutely not hesitate to say in person. I did not want to point out that his statement was wrong. I had an issue with the fact that he was commenting on things he doesn't appear to understand well in the first place. This was a personal remark, but I'm not sure which format you expect it to be distilled in to be acceptable as "civil".

If we are to reverse the situation, i.e. if it was me who blurted out something equally majestic, I would expect and prefer to be told just that instead of a wishy-washy pretense polite way. To me, coming from one of them "different cultural standards", the latter is a strange and alien way to communicate with others... which brings us right back to your remark about being respectful. Sometimes I'd be blunt when responding to comments I find particularly inane, but I also expect others to be blunt to me if the situation warrants it. Being blunt is not the same as being disrespectful, leave alone "uncivil".

> Then we all can learn something, which is the intended use of the site.

I've always viewed HN as a place for discussion with people of similar interests. Some may indeed learn a thing or two here, just like on any other forum, but stating that it's the intended use of the site is really quite strange.


Like the parent said, architecture change.

How Skype works, is how msn messenger worked, office messenger, then office communicator worked, then Lync, now skype.

They moved Skype to their existing infrastructure


They made a decision to ditch P2P and route all calls through their servers. Local calls would fall into the "P2P" umbrella.

They had huge stability problems with peering nodes running outdated software causing huge instability which they couldn't fix.

Yup. The whole P2P and Supernode architecture didn't just fail when it came to mobile devices. The Christmas 2010 outage was also caused by the reliance on supernodes.

I think it was a patent issue. No one is allowed to use p2p for chat.

It does look like IBM does own a p2p instant messaging patent[1]. So I think this checks out.

- https://www.google.ms/patents/US7675874


There was just a comment thread (on the slack outage article) recently discussing why there are no good p2p chat programs.

This might be one reason why. Fuck software patents.


It is more that without centralized servers, if that's what you mean, you have a lot of ux disadvantages.

and offline delivery, which is a big big thing.

Are there any European p2p instant messengers that don't accept non-EU customers? That patent obviously wouldn't apply and it would be a good move to capture a nice market.

Edit: There's https://tox.chat but I have never used it/always forget it exists. Antidote/Antox fas clients for iOS/Android.


The claims in that patent seem to be fairly easy to work around.

And then you get to risk defending that in court against Intel’s lawyers, who are on retainer.

Pedantry: There is only one independent claim, making it even easier.

It's remarkable that companies can "own" things so fundamental, and obvious in computing--even if they don't actually utilize their IP's.

"Hey guys, I've got a patent for talking from one machine to another over a connection." (Don't give SCO any ideas.)

The purpose of patents was to foster innovation, not squander it.

What if Issac Newton and Liebniz had a "foundation" that owned the rights to every mathematical construct they discovered? How would the world function if we had to pay that foundation fees every time we used Newton's method, or Calculus? It'd be complete bureaucratic hell.

And further, coming from another angle, I bet you money there are prior implementations of P2P chat long before... 2005.


I was working for a large hardware company (I'm not going to name names) that typically files for hardware/firmware patents. There was a push for everyone to file more patents, even from the software teams.

I was working on an app that had graph-like data so we decided to use a graph database...nothing super innovative. My coworker, who apparently had a couple patents, said that we could probably patent this algorithm. I looked at him and said, how can you patent traversing nodes and vertices... that's graph theory 101?!

Big companies try to patent everything because its a metric they can use to show how amazing they are, and acts as blackmail (or cold war). If you sue me, I'll sue you.


Skype itself was founded in 2003, so I doubt this patent is valid.

I doubt that.

That doesn't sound like the correct explanation. It's not as if 90% of Skype users stopped using it on desktop computers.

Other explanations that seem plausible:

* IBM patent, as other poster pointed out.

* ability to monitor/censor users more directly (to stay in government's good graces)

* problems with peers invading privacy or taking other malicious actions


Why were mobile devices candidates for superpeers?

> So Microsoft had to change the architecture (which wasn't designed with mobile devices in mind) into a more centralised approach that could work with mobile devices.

As an engineer and software developer, I find this to be extremely unlikely.

If "super-peers" can already route traffic for others, it seems very likely they could simply route all traffic for Mobile users through some "super-duper peer", instead of routing all traffic for all users through some "super-duper peer".


Operators have no interest in being reduced to "dumb pipes" (as the industry calls it). So OP is correct, P2P overlay routing has traditionally caused headaches for network operators traffic shaping. Any P2P tech that reaches this kind of scale would run into serious scalability challenges due to operator throtteling.

- http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6488287/

- https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/p2p/2008/3318/00/3...

- http://www1.huawei.com/enapp/198/hw-079351.htm


If all the mobile traffic is being routed through a single Microsoft-controlled "super-duper peer", then there is no P2P traffic.

Or to put it another way: If I accept the choice is between routing mobile traffic to Microsoft, or no mobile-Skype support, I don't understand how it follows that all traffic needs to move through Microsoft, or no mobile-Skype support.


Because centralized and P2P architecturally are different beasts altogether. It'd be very hard to make a protocol that essentially did both, and centralization covers all use cases, so, as a company, it makes most sense to go with that.

I'm sure there were other reasons involved in the decision, I don't pretend to know them, but from a business perspective alone, you choose one connection methodology and you stick with it. Anything more is wasteful of resources.


> It'd be very hard to make a protocol that essentially did both

They already had a protocol that essentially did both.

Once you have forwarding/routing i.e. what Skype called "super-nodes", P2P is a clear superset of "centralised".

Anyone who says different doesn't know what they're talking about.

> I'm sure there were other reasons involved in the decision, I don't pretend to know them, but from a business perspective alone, you choose one connection methodology and you stick with it. Anything more is wasteful of resources.

I'm not speculating.

I've seen engineers do stupid things that don't make sense; I'm not arguing that there are stupid reasons for it, and I'm not going to argue that there's non-technical reasons for it.

But technical reasons? I don't buy it. I need some convincing: If one protocol (the P2P one) does both use cases, then you don't need another protocol just to handle one use case. That's just not how protocols work.


Very hard is a strong overstatement, nearly as dubious as saying they did it for the backdoors. It was either a license issue, patent issue, or just unwillingness to maintain the P2P code base in face of some features (mobile, conferencing) needing the centralised one too.

> As far as I understood the reason Microsoft broke Skype so badly was because they used centralised servers with backdoors

In fairness, it was eBay that first bought Skype [1] in 2005 centralizing the data. eBay then sold it to a private investor group which Microsoft then bought Skype from [2] in 2011.

Following the Snowden leaks as well as the information from Bill Binney, NSA scoops up the data regardless..

1: https://www.pcworld.com/article/122516/article.html

2: https://www.wired.com/2011/05/microsoft-buys-skype-2/


>the reason Microsoft broke Skype so badly was because they used centralised servers with backdoors for countries who wanted them.

That seems like pretty unreasonable tinfoil. There is no reason for Microsoft to want to give information to governments. I assume they don't pay, and the cost is consumer trust. Makes a lot of sense to rearchitect such that you can't give in to government demands.


In retrospect, much "unreasonable tinfoil" has turned out to be fact. Assuming collusion is the safest bet, these days.

riding ockham's razor is a religion for some. but that's ok.

> That seems like pretty unreasonable tinfoil. There is no reason for Microsoft to want to give information to governments.

No? I don't think you are being fair.

First of all Microsoft is not one mind. There are lots of motivations bouncing around inside that entity, and not all of those motivations are 'reasonable' like you purport to be.

Second, secret court orders get issued to these big companies all the time. You don't know what kind of affordances Microsoft has provided for US and foreign government and intelligence services.

> I assume they don't pay ...

Oh let's not be pollyannaish, any contract work done for governments would be paid work. Cha-CHING! I see dolla signs. $$$

It's infinitely reasonable to distrust large internet companies that gather interesting user data. paule89 just came right out and says what a lot of us reasonable folk are thinking.

Maybe someone at Microsoft's decided it would be more profitable to salvage the Skype name and introduce some real end-to-end encryption just like the competition has. Or, maybe Microsoft is helping the Five Eyes to use Skype + Signal as a big real-world test bed for cracking or weakening Signal's encryption. I mean, it's just impossible to know what's really going on here.


Highly plausible, but I would suggest the reason would more likely be competition than anything else. Right now Skype's biggest competitor is whatsapp which is growing quickly, has end to end encryption and you dont need a skype name and password you've probably forgotten.

>That seems like pretty unreasonable tinfoil

Doesn't seem so to me.

>I assume they don't pay

You're dead wrong, my friend. They do pay. A lot. Think of all those juicy government contracts.


If they pay for more access than is required, why wasn't that in the documents Snowden dumped? Instead, we saw the normal court rulings requiring companies to comply with data access requests.

I mean, paying Microsoft (among the rest of the tech giants) for more access than is required was in the leaks, in the form of the PRISM program.

You don't understand PRISM. PRISM was a system for processing the data that the companies were legally required to send.

PRISM is/was a small program. "Upstream" programs is the what most should be worried about and goes sort of around companies (and anyone/anything else).

Though, some companies are handed a court order to "share" their data (quarterly, about 80 companies so far). And NSA has standard rates for this.


They don't "share" the data, and the NSA doesn't pay for it. The slides clearly show that the data requests are consumed by the FBI, which is the organization that the companies deal with.

Because Snowden dropped the infinity motherload: a complete information drop, accurate well into 2018, all questions answered, all suspicions allayed.

This is a legitimate argument in 2018? You're not spied on because... tinfoil?

If only consumers cared. As it stands there's very little downside to handing information over to government(s), and I would assume some upsides (back scratching).

Apple might actually be making consumers care in an odd way by making it such a public issue.



Absolutely. I'm just referring to the high profile news around specific events that might have made people think about it briefly. Possibly more effective than any hand wringing we might do.

Without addressing the tinfoilery... ummm... have you ever actually looked at the size of government contracts in the US? They're usually the largest customer any Fortune 500 company has, so large that losing them as a customer would destroy the company. There are a handful of exceptions, but for most companies, they are very much not going to bite the hand that feeds them. If daddy asks for access, daddy gets access. That's one of the reasons I support making ISPs a municipal public utility. Municipal governments will tell the government to pound sand if they don't have a court order with a judges seal. Any private company in the US will only open the door for them and ask if they've had a chance to review their bid on the latest government contract.

I suppose the Skype client won't become open source with reproducible builds.

Which are “the good countries” in this context?

Easy. You leak the keys from the clients to the centralized servers.

>>How will Microsoft and Skype handle backdoors now

Backdoors require quite a few MSFT people with--way more than--FU money agreeing to it. I would bet that something like this would leak. All it takes is one to annon leak a screenshot or a memo


Need to know. Members of the kernel team generally have zero knowledge of what happens in the build lab between the sources and the product that's released to the world.

Wikipedia: "Signal relies on centralized servers that are maintained by Open Whisper Systems."

Totally uninformed comment. Signal the app relies on centralized servers to route messages & discover contacts. Signal the protocol (which is what Skype is rolling out) is a messaging encryption library that encrypts messages on the client using the other client's public key. Central servers (and anyone else in between the two clients) only sees encrypted gibberish, never plain text.

That was my first thought. This is how they kill Signal. It was how they killed Skype. Take a P2P communication system that is difficult to spy on, give Microsoft a big pile of money on the sly to buy it and re-engineer it to be a centralized system and restore spy-ability. It almost seems so laughably obvious as to be childishly unwise to attempt.

How would Signal working with Microsoft to implement the Signal protocol in Skype somehow kill Signal?

Signal (the organization) has worked with other companies, like Facebook and WhatsApp (owned by FaceBook, I know), to implement the Signal protocol on their respective messaging services. It appears that's precisely what they're doing with Skype in this case. It's not like Microsoft is buying out Signal.


Just to get a sense of the track record here, Signal Protocol powers:

* Facebook/WhatsApp

* Google/Allo

* Microsoft/Skype

* Signal

Signal is also the basis for the protocols for Wire (Proteus) and Matrix (Olm).


Please note that of the technologies tptacek listed, the only one which can operate in distributed fashion is Matrix.[0]

Wire is attempting to pursue decentralization, but federation is not (yet) in their roadmap.[1]

[0] https://github.com/matrix-org/synapse

[1] https://medium.com/@wireapp/wire-server-code-now-100-open-so...


I don't know why but Signal has always scared me - I think it was when I noticed it sharing my contacts with their server to "find my friends" when I never consented.

Matrix is looking good, but again not P2P only federated. This is why we are trying to do fully P2P end-to-end encryption like with https://hackernoon.com/so-you-want-to-build-a-p2p-twitter-wi... .


We’ve designed the Signal service to minimize the data we retain about Signal users, so the only information we can produce in response to a request like this is the date and time a user registered with Signal and the last date of a user’s connectivity to the Signal service.

Notably, things we don’t have stored include anything about a user’s contacts (such as the contacts themselves, a hash of the contacts, any other derivative contact information), anything about a user’s groups (such as how many groups a user is in, which groups a user is in, the membership lists of a user’s groups), or any records of who a user has been communicating with.

All message contents are end to end encrypted, so we don’t have that information either.

https://signal.org/bigbrother/


Ok, that's good. But Signal automatically created conversations with people in my address book who I never want to communicate with via Signal. I didn't authorize it, the app did it automatically. I think that is what the grandparent was referring to.


> my contacts with their server to "find my friends" when I never consented.

I installed Signal a few days ago for the first time and there was definitely a prompt, with an easy way to skip it, before it did the find my friends thing.

The wording also seemed to indicate that only the hashes of the numbers would be uploaded but not sure if thats actually true.


How does Signal know my contact is using Signal?

Signal periodically sends truncated cryptographically hashed phone numbers for contact discovery. Names are never transmitted, and the information is not stored on the servers. The server responds with the contacts that are Signal users and then immediately discards this information. Your phone now knows which of your contacts is a Signal user and notifies you if your contact just started using Signal.

https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/115005045728-Do...



You can add OMEMO (XMPP) to the list: https://conversations.im/omemo/

Don't forget EFF also gave it high grades. What I also would like to see is meta-data eliminated in chat, without having to bring up a Tor server on your phone. Build it into the client/software, make it invisible.

The EFF's handing out of 'grades' for this stuff is probably something everyone is better off forgetting.

Their grades are based on objective assessment of properties of underlying technologies. They are very useful for most people, who are not going to study cryptography for several years and then manually reading and checking source code of every communications software product out there.

No. They're not useful. They were a disaster, and EFF should stop doing them (I think they have?)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10525266


Seems like there's a demand for an objective layman friendly list like this (only more accurate). Wonder if that'll ever happen.

I suspect security will remain a privilege of the technical elite or those that can pay the technical elite. I guess maybe that's OK, but a bit concerning at a consumer level where it could be another factor increasing the class gap.


This press release is about security being increased in a product that has massive reach amongst those who are not the technical elite. There doesn't appear to be any extra fee for it as well.

I don't think things are nearly as bleak as the GP poster sees them - my optimistic guess is that e2e encryption will be the default in most messaging systems within 10 years.

On the other hand, this sort of integration is a symbolic baby step of little practical impact or increase in security. Not only are these features not enabled by default, they're so deeply buried in the UI they're hard to find even when you know they're there. It's easier to accidentally send someone an animated gif of tapirs playing poker and smoking cigars on FB Messenger than it is to deliberately start an encrypted conversation. Skype and Allo are not much better.


> No. They're not useful. They were a disaster, and EFF should stop doing them (I think they have?)

> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10525266

Seems like most of the critiqued stuff has changed. By the time i got to EFF recomendations Signal was the winner and use of telegram and cryptocat was discouraged.


Yes they have. Now they have a set of (kind of weird) guides.

"Their grades are based on objective assessment of properties of underlying technologies."

What were the grades for apps/protocols that run on closed, proprietary basebands with, in some cases, DMA ? Or on devices with embedded, parallel computers that can run arbitrary java programs uploaded, at any time, by the carrier, without the users' knowledge[1] ?

All fails, right ? Straight "F"s ?

[1] These are called "SIM chips"


I love this. The more encryption is used, the less journalists talking to their sources, lawyers talking to their clients, etc. will stand out.

Unfortunately most of this is opt-in and not opt-out. Opting in for E2E encryption in a Facebook message really stands out.

Yes, that is indeed a shame, although I'm glad at least WhatsApp has it by default, which is a lot of messages already.

Facebook has that? I can't find it.

It's called secret messages or something similar. May only be available in the messenger app...

Correct. It's kinda out of the way unless you know what you're looking for. On iOS:

- Open the app to the "Messages" tab.

- Tap the compose button in the top right corner

- Tap the "Secret" button in the top right corner.


In the mobile messenger app (not lite) , click the 'new conversation' button, and top right there's a switch marked with a lock.

Speaking of track records,

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants...

Facebook

Google

Microsoft


They cut off 1 letter off the url by replacing "june" with "jun"

I think you'd either want the full month name or all the months to be abbreviated to the same number of characters. You can't do 2 characters because of June and July, but three works. 4 would be sort of weird.

Do you have an opinion on how Keybase handles their encrypted chat?

I believe Keybase is different because they have so much of their own key infrastructure. I haven't heard anything about them linking up with Signal.

Can't say I am really happy about it. The more the Signal protocol is used the more money is spend on attacking it.

That's the opposite of how you should feel. The more money spent attacking Signal, the stronger secure messaging gets. The best thing that could possibly happen for messaging security is for someone to discover a flaw in Signal. Unlike a lot of messengers, where a flaw is unlikely to teach us something other than "people should use Signal Protocol instead of terrible ad hoc protocols", a Signal flaw advances the state of the art.

"If you haven't been hacked by the Chinese you got to ask yourself, does the shit you're doing really even matter?"

I prefer for Signal to be attacked and to matter than to be unattacked and to be irrelevant.


Indeed, it's incredibly selfish and naive to depend on security by obscurity here when you can significantly up the bar from basically one step above full-text all-access for every global spy agency... to a serious encryption system.

Regardless, the exposure ship sailed long ago anyway when WhatsApp with their billions of users, including plenty of terrorist groups in the middle east and africa, decided to adopt the platform.

Additionally, breaking crypto systems like this in practice, if possible, pretty much always means targeted attacks. Which is a significant difference from the type of mass surveillance which Skype et al currently allow.

Even Blackberry bragged about building a system for the NSA/CSEC to provide real-time data access to every BBM being sent in the Toronto area during G20. It's very likely that Skype has a similar system and this change (should) make that fundamentally infeasible.


s/Chinese/US agencies/

The only way you can know if a protocol is secure is if you have a lot of eyes on it trying to break it nine ways from sunday. This is nothing but a good thing.

That's a good thing. Well-studied protocols are safer protocols, and significant money can pay for the best expertise in the world.

But being battle-tested early on is the only way to ensure there are no bugs later on when everybody is using it.

Moxie Marlinspike is one of my tech heros.

Maybe a good opportunity to remember what is the main mission of Signal/Open Whisper Systems: they realized at the time that it was extremely complicated for non-technical people to use tools secure enough and respecting your privacy (PGP...), and that the tools used by everyone (Whatsapp, Messenger...) were popular because they were fun and easy to use.

They believed that everyone should be able to have an easy way to communicate with everyone, with a nice UI/UX, AND have an app secure and respectful of your privacy. And this, leaded to the Signal protocal and the Signal app .


While on the topic of things to remember, also remember that they're making compromises in order to keep things hidden from users.

The Signal protocol may be sound, but as we've seen with today's WhatsApp news, there are still implementation-specific compromises being made. Not to mention that many of those companies ship a closed source product. They could publish a spec of what should be going over the wire to make it auditable without needing to go all open source, but they don't do that either. Things are really kept closed. I am not sure whether it's a net positive or a net negative when another user joins WhatsApp or a similar service, versus Telegram where encryption is opt-in but at least it's open source and not leaking metadata to BigCorps whose profit model is knowing you.


Though I understand your points, Signal is a protocol, you can implement and build things around it the way you want. Sure you can say that WhisperSystems should enforce a secured architecture around it, but it is not their job, and I doubt Whatsapp, Messenger and Skype would be using Signal if they were forcing that.

And I would definitely not say Telegram is the best tool here [1][2]. If you want something really secure, I would recommend the Signal app [3].

In the end, it is always who you decide to put your trust in.

[1] https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/49782/is-telegr... [2] https://eprint.iacr.org/2015/1177.pdf [3] https://signal.org/


Wikipedia: "Signal relies on centralized servers that are maintained by Open Whisper Systems."

Would it be possible to use the same open source proto and crypto that Signal chose, but in a way that does not rely on third parties to run servers, such as OWS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc.?


Yep. You can use Signal Protocol over XMPP by using an OMEMO-compatible client [1]. You can pretty "easily" host your own XMPP server using Prosody [2] on a Raspberry Pi.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OMEMO 2. https://prosody.im


Signal the app uses OWS's servers, but Signal the protocol can run on anything. WhatsApp etc definitely aren't using OWS servers.

From what I can see, they're doing everything that they can to eliminate sending anything to servers. They recently launched private contact discovery which is really interesting.

https://signal.org/blog/private-contact-discovery/

Moxie has said repeatedly that they're working to do better on this front, but it's not without its technological challenges. He's written repeatedly about this and has also called for anyone willing to try to make it happen and offered to help them. Just one example springs to mind:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12883410

And federation is possible over XMPP with Signal:

https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/


>And federation is possible over XMPP with Signal: https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/

That article does not say this. In fact, it more or less has the opposite meaning.


Yes, but decentralization is a difficult problem. I think eventually it will become like email, where everyone just uses GMail.

NAT, Firewall, etc all make it very difficult to do true P2P as well.


You might use GMail, but I can communicate with you perfectly fine even if I don't use GMail.

If by "perfectly fine" you mean highly likely to get into your recipient's spam folder - you're probably right. Having tried to self host my own mail server I can tell you it's never an easy task to actually get your message across.

That doesn't match my experience of running a mail sever for decades.

How long since you set up mail for a newly registered (possibly with previous owner) domain hosted on a VPN or rented dedicated server in an ip block that might have had previous owners?

Not sure if this is recent enough, but I moved my self-hosted email to a new address a little over 4 years ago.

The only systems that have had even tiny problems with were Gmail and Microsoft. With Gmail it took a while to build reputation as a non-offender. With Microsoft the first time I sent mail to their way, I got an automated bounce with instructions to forward to a certain address for human verification. That check round took maybe 12 hours and I haven't had any problems since.

I find that pretty reasonable.


Sounds like Microsoft (outlook.com and friends?) have improved since I sat things up - I never got a bounce. It'd be nice if Gmail was so considerate.

But how do you know that when you send mail to a new Gmail contact it won't be silently flagged as spam? And how many times will the recipient have to "un-flag" before the behaviour changeges?

> The only systems that have had even tiny problems with were Gmail and Microsoft

The "only" big provider missing from that list is apple (in the West anyway).

I've never meant to claim that smaller providers that know what they're doing aren't capable of sending proper bounces, setting proper smtp error codes on reception or of handling email to postmaster@.

It's just that with Gmail and outlook not being God net citizens - it becomes unreasonably hard to send legitimate email to a large percentage of Internet users. One possible "fix" is to send mail to Gmail users via a Gmail account and Gmail authenticated smtp servers - and so on for outlook.com - but as the number of "silos" one needs to send data to grows, that solution becomes cumbersome. Not to mention if you publish an mx record for your domain, you should be accepting email... That's the whole point...


Two years ago? Still no issues.

This comes up a lot but the reality is that its really only nerds and spammers that self-host. It's hard to fault spam filters of being suspicious of random domains. This doesn't mean there aren't many alternatives -- just about any personal email provider will make sure they're off the blacklists.

With Gmail it appears to be a question of getting on a (secret, opaque) white list.

I mean that's the nature of these kinds of lists. We don't tell anyone about how we set up our firewall, do spam filtering, or flag accounts for suspicious activity because then it would be easier to circumvent.

There are plenty efficient rbl lists that are transparent. There's grey listing.

It's not like "today, you feel white-ish enough to not be silently dropped at gw, black-ish enough to go in the spam folder without warning" is the only valid policy to fight spam.

Even simply rejecting with an error (spam suspected) would be better than the silent treatment.

And I don't see anything wrong with telling people how you set up a firewall. We even write books about that.


And that’s why end-to-end encrypted e-mail is so very hard

I actually wrote a prototype to manage that:

http://lettergram.github.io/AnyCrypt/

The problem is we need to stop worrying about end-to-end encrypted <insert name here>. We need something that blocks javascript, and encrypts our messages before they even enter the pipeline (there will still be meta data though).

The extension I built was a POC just showing how it could be done easily with Keybase.


You have a "Portfolio" link in the sidebar that doesn't seem to be for anything, and a broken #contact anchor.

>I think eventually it will become like email, where everyone just uses GMail.

Or Outlook(Office365), Ymail, Zoho, GMX, iCloud, Yandex, Proton.


Or Posteo, Mailbox.org, Tutanota, Riseup.net, etc.

Or self-hosted.

A lot of people are listing plenty of alternatives for email, but the majority of people aren't going to be this broad in email usage.

Let's be real here, the vast majority of people use Gmail or Outlook. And importantly, businesses. iCloud breaks into the consumer market though, but these are by far the leaders.

Over the last couple of years, there's been huge progress in making end-to-end encryption practical for "real world" apps -- especially stuff running in web browsers. Signal is part of that, of course, as is WebRTC, a standard that to its great credit did an excellent job with the encryption pieces from the very beginning.

We built our video calling app, Daily.co, on top of WebRTC and so we could relatively easily include end-to-end encryption from the day we launched.

A few things make e2e harder as you scale up. One is that metadata gets more and more important, for a lot of reasons, as you add features and try to grow a business. As has been pointed out here, Skype was end-to-end encrypted in the pre-Microsoft days.

Another challenge is that it's a lot easier to build e2e encryption for mesh network topologies than if you're routing things through central servers. For video calling, mesh networking breaks down as you add more users to a call. For us, that means we're e2e encrypted up to 4 people in a call. After that, we're forwarding video streams through our servers in the cloud, and we don't do e2e encryption anymore. (Not that we wouldn't like to, it's just a much heavier development lift.)


Why not just forward the e2e encrypted video streams through your servers? Encrypted or not, wouldn’t the amount of traffic be the same?

If you wouldn't mind, what server framework are you using to route video? Did you custom roll one? Using a service like twilio for calls with more than a few people?

If anyone from Skype product-team is reading this - Please bring back the ability to dial from the local contacts, without having to Sync my entire address book. This is my minimum request.

If possible, just put the old Skype interface back. The new design with all its jazz-matazz and sparkles have made the product unusable. It is not a first-world unusable I am talking about. The product is not usable, as in I am moving away from Skype after being a customer who has given thousands of dollars in business over the years.

How did the new Skype design pass user feedback reviews? Honestly asking to learn.


it's unbelievable how badly skype functions as a PC IM client. it just keeps getting worse and worse. there's zero reason an IM client should be using hundreds of megs of ram and a hideous, garish UI that you can't turn off.

the only workaround i found was the pidgin skype-web plugin, which can be a little buggy, but it's far preferable if all you use skype for is IM.


Not sure if it's the same client, but the Skye for Business client is also just as bad.

I used to work on a virtualised Windows machine (work mandated) and the only usable accessibility option was a high DPI setting. The old Lync client worked perfectly with this, obviously dating back to an age where they cared about accessibility. Skype for business completely ignored system DPI settings, made certain things huge with other things being tiny.

The spacing was the biggest issue - literally 30-40% of my 43" monitor would often be taken up by spacing around icons etc on the app.

It really felt as though they just stopped putting as much effort into UX, accessibility, usability. Lync felt like a professional IM client, Skype for Business felt like a half baked bodge.


Now if only they can partner with someone to get chat working as well as it used to or get syncing between multiple devices working...

This. I wish Signal's own native apps had the user experience of Telegram.

Telegram clients are open source, I think Signal could just fork it patch the protocol and be done with it.

Or better, support dual account logins.


or that telegram just used the signal protocol; either is fine in my book

Yes, that would be great as well but I’ve long since given up on that happening.


I'm not sure I'd want to work for a company that makes compromises at every turn and works together with companies that have their user's privacy definitely not at heart (but claim to by using this encryption publicity stunt).

I made a request for e2e to Discord a while back. It became one of the most voted suggestions but got denied. Maybe this will push them to take another look.

I'm not knowledgeable about this -- is signal's e2e encryption even viable for a service with N users, and one where new users are being added?

Put another way, if I have a group with 10 users and it's encrypted and then another person joins and can see the old messages, was it actually securely encrypted in the first place?


> if I have a group with 10 users and it's encrypted and then another person joins and can see the old messages, was it actually securely encrypted in the first place?

Sure, why not? Assume, just because it's the first thing that came to mind, that message history is encrypted using GPG and every message is encrypted with everyone's individual public keys. When a new user joins, one user just encrypts the message history with the new user's public key.

Or am I missing something? Do the existing users in the group not have access to their own message history?


You’re not missing anything, this is definitely possible to do.

That said, encrypting every message with everyone’s public key doesn’t scale, so instead you’d likely want to generate a symmetric key for the group and as new users are invited the inviter would encrypt the group key with the invitee’s public key. That makes it trivial for new users to view history, and as new chats are posted they only need to be encrypted with one key.


I don't think Discord gives people access to past message history when joining a group. I don't know of any limitations of Signal's group chats that would be a problem for Discord's group chat behavior.

It does give access to past messages.

Discord support chat history sever side searches, they even posted a blog about how to optimise ElasticSsearch clusters.

E2E encryption is useless here. Unless you setup some kind of dedicated channel for secretive group chats.


It is one of the permission settings that can be toggled for a Discord chat room.

On the other hand, I think they are trying to avoid the less nice usecases of communication by restricting themselves to gaming.

Less nice technically or socially? Speaking as someone who has played countless hours of competitive video games in my downtime after work, I assure you that, socially, 'less nice' is a charitable way to describe gaming chat, devolving into a constant torrent of abuse and harassment depending on your skill level, the sound of your voice, and the Dunning Kruger level of yourself and your other team members.

Discord is already being heavily used in the less nice gaming communities revolving around cheating, compromise/hacked accounts (not just game) selling/malware and game related phish/keylog.

But incidentally the same people selling hacked spotify and netflix accounts also provide "support" over skype, so opsec, meet window I guess


This is still an optional feature, so like 98%+ of the users will not use, and the other 2% probably won't use it all the time either.

Right now only Signal and WhatsApp enable the end-to-end encryption by default.

Microsoft should remember that they can't use the excuse that "they can't provide law enforcement with the messages" unless the users were also using the E2E mode/Private Conversations.

It would also help if Microsoft stopped supporting voice calls in its main client, too, as that automatically qualifies it as a "telecom provider" in many countries, which means it automatically falls under the same lawful intercept laws that affect telecom providers.

Unless these changes are made, then this news hardly changes anything in regards to Skype messages being intercepted.


skype had this already before ms. ms opened skype up to government ages ago so this doesn't mean much of anything, there are backdoors. https://youtu.be/J1q4Ir2J8P8?t=2880

Yeah, I was gonna say Skype communication protocol was proprietary and encrypted until Microsoft bought them and rewrite a lot of it.

Skype is proprietary software. Even if it encrypts my messages E2E, it still needs to display them with its proprietary UI and see them in plain text. There's no way I could trust that or recommend anyone else to.

The thing about E2E encryption is that you still need to have reasonable trust in each E.


I concur.

It's interesting that so many people who claim they understand what the software is doing don't appear to understand that proprietary software is always untrustworthy. Users have no real control over proprietary software, no matter how technical and willing they are to change their copy of the software.

Therefore it doesn't matter which apps are installed on a proprietary OS. The proprietary OS (or possibly some hardware beneath it) is untrustworthy. Every keystroke, drag/gesture, location change, camera/mic input, and more pass through proprietary software before they get to the ostensibly trustworthy app.


More than a few comments trying to rationalize why Skype is different under Microsoft. (Supernodes are controlled by Microsoft, not users.) Also some comments exhibiting misconceptions about the relative feasibility of peer-to-peer networking today compared to the past.

Some users want peer-to-peer networks that are controlled by users, not third parties such as Microsoft, Facebook, etc. It seems that corporations are also interested in such networks. But they just want the users, not the ability to exclude third parties (they are a third party).

What is important for these interested users is that Skype changed and how it changed, not why changed.

No explanation, rationale or excuse is a substitute for a peer-to-peer network that is controlled by its users, not third parties.

We know why these user-controlled networks get acquired (or copied) by companies: because they work and they attract many users.


You know, before Microsoft Skype had end to end encryption.

For a minute, I thought your comment had simply trailed off without finishing your thought.

Then I realised it wasn't "Microsoft Skype", but rather, "before Microsoft, Skype had..."


I see, thanks for the info. Comma setting in English is rather unexpected for me. It works different in German, but I'll try to adapt. Maybe in English you would also say "end-to-end encryption" rather than "end to end encryption", is that correct?

Both are commonly used, although "end-to-end" is correct as it indicates a compound adjective - a phrase acting as a single adjective affecting the noun ("encryption") that follows it.

That's probably because before Skype, Microsoft had Ballmer.

While they are it, could they make the Skype application an actually reliable one? I find WhatsApp video and call quality far superiour to that of Skype, which has years on WhatsApp. Not only is the video and call quality subpar, the app itself often behaves in odd ways. Personally, I've come to dislike Skype greatly.

Great news. More funding for Open Whisper to provide us Signal.

They could get 100x the amount they've gotten so far from these companies if they had launched their own crypto-asset, which is probably by far the best way for an open source project to get funding.

Moxie Marlinspike is involved in: https://www.mobilecoin.com/

maybe they should launch a crypto-social-iot platform for digital asset management /s

Let them focus on a problem that actually needs solving.


How does Signal's chat security compare to Keybase.io's chat? Keybase has more features, but if it's not as secure, then it doesn't matter.

Keybase doesn’t support forward secrecy. The signal protocol does, though I can’t say whether that’s true for Skype's implementation of the protocol

Some docs here: https://keybase.io/docs/crypto/chat

To add a little bit, avoiding forward secrecy was a design decision. We wanted to support adding and removing devices from your account (including removing all of your original devices, if you want), and we wanted new devices to be able to read your message history. I think those two things put together are in conflict with forward secrecy.

That said, we'd like to allow you to turn off history for some messages, and it would be nice if you got forward secrecy for those messages when you did that. We're currently in the middle of figuring out how that's going to work. One of the open problems is this sort of situation: If I have 5 devices, and one of them is a laptop that's been in the closet for 3 years and won't ever rotate its keys again, how do we avoid making that laptop a giant hole in my forward secrecy guarantees?


It seems like a reasonable design decision to have a time horizon beyond which a device which has been out of communication loses access to more recent messages. That could be significantly less than 3 years - probably a week or two is fine.

Does this mean Skype will stop cooperating with governments demanding chat history disclosure?

They'll still cooperate but they'll have much less data to provide.

I can't help but read this with a cynical voice in my head: Skype used to have an incredibly bleeding edge P2P E2E encrypted protocol, and Microsoft threw it all away. Some might say for good reasons (mobile use case, supernodes straining routers, legal wiretap compliance issues); I'd respectfully disagree and observe that there's just going full-circle.

Some ex-Skype developers created http://Wire.com with open-source E2E encryption and mobile apps that are usable by regular people.

Wire's cryptography is cribbed from Signal, so Skype's original crypto couldn't have been all that bleeding edge.

You have to remember Skype is 14 years old. Skype's encryption was pretty cutting-edge in 2003.

It was so cutting edge that they participated in PRISM!

Wasn't that after M$ bought them? (I might be wrong, just asking)

Yes, you are correct. I guess people didn’t get my joke.

I know it's popular to blame Microsoft for everything, but this was happening before Microsoft. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Skype-Provided-Backdoor-Acces...

Yeah, Microsoft moving to a model where "lawful intercept" is no longer possible would be hugely surprising.

They can still lawful intercept. All they have to do is push a MITMed version to suspected law breakers. It's going to be closed source just like WhatsApp, so of course, it will be easy for LE to defeat while shedding crocodile tears publicly about how it's uncrackable.

How could Skype target binaries to individual users?

They don't need it. They can simply turn a switch and disable E2E between parties under investigation.

Remember this is closed source and you're using a central infrastructure.


I think it's more likely that they just include another public key in the list of keys that are used to encrypt the symmetric key that is actually used to encrypt the call. That's just a guess though.

Auto updates to Windows users of interest (who Microsoft already track a plethora of data about making desnonymization trivial)? Many people use windows with a Microsoft account logged in making it even easier to identify.

I would assume they would target using the machine guid windows uses for updates.

Compromised software is no longer needed when backdoors can be built-in or injected in hardware or firmware/drivers.

My cynical voice says "Can't harvest the metadata if people leave to other options in order to protect their content".

I'd still rather see Skype eaten by the untainted parts of the competition, but I suppose at least for people who will keep using Skype no matter what, this should be an improvement.


Based on what do you respectfully disagree? I'd be curious to hear your reasons for thinking the "good" reasons you mention aren't in fact good.

Did they remove some e2e encryption or did they just start running the supernodes themselves/move closer to a centralized architecture?

Considering that they can comply with wiretap orders from law enforcement, I'd say there's no e2e encryption. Maybe e2msft2e.

Also, I don't think they ever encrypt their chat. I remember a while ago where somebody showed that when you send a private web address to the person you are chatting to, that URL is visited by a machine with an IP belonging to Microsoft. That was a few years ago though and I think the explanation was that Microsoft was looking for malware.


My skype broke (empty everything) on ubuntu,android,web and only works on windows old installation with upgrade.

Same here. Until now, I assumed I'd somehow screwed up my registration on Android.

It is probably opt-in and a crippled version of the default chat interface.

This way the few users of the feature will be visible like a Christmas tree in a dark forest and the general userbase will think it's their laziness not to use encrypted Skype.

That's also how Facebook implemented it in messenger.


Skype complies with at least court-ordered wiretap requests (they were forced to when MS bought them). How exactly will that work without "e2e but with key escrow"? And "e2e with key escrow" is basically the same as "plaintext"

I abandoned Skype after Microsoft bought them out, I don't miss them even a little. If Microsoft could buy Linux they would probably break it as well, thank goodness its not for sale

Does this mean I'll need to give Skype a verified phone number and some version of all my contacts for … reasons. Reasons that are, trust us, so important that we can't let you opt out of them, but that have nothing to do with us keeping your phone number.

I like everything else about Signal, but won't use it as long as they mandate that you tie your account to a verified, non-throwaway phone number. That's asking for more trust than I'm willing to give.


This is Signal the E2E protocol (also used by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Allo), not Signal the app. The number requirement is part of the app. I assume your identifier in Skype will be your Skype name/MS Account.

I would presume that, whatever they say, the real reason for that is account deduplication.

To block spammers in a social network, you either need messages to be expensive to send (ala the old e-stamps concept) or you need 1. identities to be expensive to acquire, plus 2. the ability to ban identities. The simplest way to make identities expensive is to require that each account be tied to some sort of real-world scarce token that you can prove possession of, like a phone number.

If, when you ban a user, you also ban their token from being used to create new accounts, most casual users are stymied from "re-making", and professional spammers have their potential volume (and therefore potential ROI) lowered by an order of magnitude because they need to pay for phone numbers (at e.g. $1 a pop on Twilio) to in order to register the spam-accounts, and each of those spam-accounts (and therefore phone numbers) will be banned quickly enough that they won't have made $1 back by the time it happens.

The fact that account-deduplicating like this helps them get more accurate active-subscriber statistics is a nice bonus.

What this probably isn't, is a KYC measure. They don't care who you are; they just care that—whoever you might be—you only have one active account. (If you can think of a better way to achieve that without asking for potentially-identifying information, I'm all ears! Something something proof-of-stake? Make registration require you to burn an hour/day/week mining a token?)


Does mean the consumer Skype or the corporate Skype?

Article refers to consumer Skype, not SkypeForBusiness.

Will Chinese citizens be receiving this update?

I would much more prefer if they would fix such basic things as missing front/rear camera switch in video call or inability to send more than one photo at same time.

What’s the point ? There’s still backdoors in Skype anyway, lol.

Indeed. The latter end of end-to-end may not be the end intended by the user.

Would be cool if MS would just drop Skype and adopt Signal.

This means we can still trust Signal right? That's the app I use because some large security experts said it was one of the best.

Nothing about Signal itself is changing. This is Microsoft adopting the Signal Protocol for a new feature in Skype.

While on topic of Skype: My God the latest Skype design update is abysmal, whoever come up with that horrible mess should be fired and never touch any design or management role at all.

And it’s not only design but the ux is horrible too, when you switch between conversation - it does not focus on the chat box field so you can start typing right away, instead you have to click it first. This is a basic stuff for a chatting app and whoever missed that is apparently clueless about ux

Edit: also if any of Skype iOS app developers is reading this - on iPhone X when you accidentally click top left corner of the phone where the clock is - for some inexplicable reason the whole conversation scrolls all the way to the top, which is incredibly annoying!


> on iPhone X when you accidentally click top left corner of the phone where the clock is - for some inexplicable reason the whole conversation scrolls all the way to the top, which is incredibly annoying!

That's by design and standard iOS behaviour (it has been there for years). Tapping anywhere on the system toolbar (i.e. where the clock, wifi, signal strength indicators are) brings the main scrollable view to its "topmost" position.


I just tried it on this webpage, and you’re correct!

I really dislike behavior like this that is useful to a few people but is far more likely to be encountered accidentally and feel buggy.


You're kidding right? It's been a feature of iOS for what feels like forever, and it's literally the one thing I miss most when switching to Android. I have witnessed first hand, very un-tech savvy iOS users using the feature, as well as people confused (my daughters) why the same action on Android doesn't product the same result.

I thought this was one of Apple's "protected" features that everyone used/loved - guess not!


I agree it’s useful on web pages but there has got to be an option to disable that in app conversations.

Just noticed something - in safari it requires you to tap it twice, thus precenting accidential clicks, while in skype it sends you straight to the top with a first click.

I like it and use it all the time and many people I know also use it a lot. It is not as good for text that is most relevant on the bottom (e.g. text messages) but really useful for webpages, etc.. Some apps implement some logic to scroll back up when you tap it again (Apollo comes to mind).

The only disadvantage is that many users do not know about this feature (because there is no indication that the status bar tab is supposed to do something like that) which is the reason many use think an app is buggy after they have tabbed on it accidentally.


> The only disadvantage is that many users do not know about this feature (because there is no indication that the status bar tab is supposed to do something like that) which is the reason many use think an app is buggy after they have tabbed on it accidentally.

Precisely why this behavior should be considered unfriendly. It's not intuitive and is prone to accidents by the vast majority of the target market.

Even just making it a double-tap would make it drastically better, and double-taps are closer to convention as well. Double-click the left or right arrows in an overloaded tab bar in Firefox on desktop, for instance, for it to scroll a full row over.


Agree with this. It's a great feature other than in messaging apps. In those, I wish there was an equally useful feature to get back to the bottom.

I've noticed that most people find the feature accidentally, but then once they realize it's an option, use it extensively.


> I wish there was an equally useful feature to get back to the bottom.

WhatsApp shows a small button in the lower-right corner once you scroll up a few messages for this purpose. iMessage scrolls back to the bottom as soon as you focus the input field. I don't know about the others.

But yeah, it highly depends on how the developers decide to implement it, which is suboptimal :(


If you think this is weird, what about the "shake to undo" thing? :-)

Seriously, try to e.g. delete an email from the system's mail app, then vigorously shake your phone in anger. A popup asking you to "Undo delete" should appear on the screen (Many applications hook into this seemingly standard undo mechanism on iOS).

Some things in iOS are objectively weird and unintuitive but I miss them so much whenever I use an Android phone.


> the "shake to undo" thing? :-)

"You appear to be shaking your phone in frustration. Would you like to un-delete that?" :)


I like this behavior for web pages. Not sure it's appropriate for chat history... so I think you are right that Skype probably shouldn't work that way.

It has been for years. I love it and miss this on Android (and MacOS as well).

On MacOS it's present in Mail app at least - if you click on the grey bar at the top of the email list it will scroll to the top :).

No thanks

The difference is that in browser you have to tap it twice , first tap expands browser bar and second tap scrolls to the top. However In conversations it just scrolls to the very top with a first click, which is incredibly annoying.

Have long wanted a home/top gesture, thanks!

WHOA. this is amazing. Must try.

Who at Apple thought this was intuitive?

What's two flicks got that this doesn't? Or maybe if a shortcut was desired for extremely long views, why not make it a double tap?


Two flicks ?!?

Try 4-5 (or more) flicks and you also have to wait for the scrolling to happen (at the speed of your flick) .... contrast that with one "press" on iOS - it's not even close - I use the feature daily.


Maybe scroll speeds need some work on iOS. On Android, two full swipes of a long source file or pdf have gotten me to the top. Haha

Great, on iOS is a single interaction and again it has been there for ages. My dad switched from Android and actually likes this specific feature.

iOS devices aren't only used to browse source files or PDFs. You could be at the very bottom of an extremely long Reddit thread, for example, or some other really long page where it would take multiple swipes to get back to the top.

Yes, this is an iPhone X bezel design flaw, not a Skype design flaw. :)

Design? UX? I'd wish those are the only issues with Skype. If really necessary, can tolerate ugliest of the designs, if it works. Problem is, it doesn't.

It loses messages at random. Sometimes it fails to send (I was really angry when I had an important call, and my "Hey, I'm here, let's start" got stuck in "Sending..." forever - thankfully, web.skype.com worked. That message made it through only the next day.) Sometimes it fails to receive - someone asks me why I'm not responding and I check the messages and don't see anything.

And those "sometimes" are not once in a blue moon, but every other month (if not worse).

Unfortunately, suggestions to use something else are not really working so I've stopped trying. Everyone seems to hate Skype, everyone I've asked had recognized it barely works and is frequently unreliable, but almost everyone I know still sticks to it. :(


Or the desktop client on OSX keeps asking for admin privileges to install some helper tool every other day, with no explanation for why that's necessary.

That helper tool maxes my cpu every time I’m on a call. It’s amazingly terrible.

I'm just assuming I'm getting hacked by North Korea every time I say yes to it.

Have you tried the skype mobile app latest update ? It makes the desktop version look amazing. Somehow, they thought we wanted skype to be a clone of whatsapp stories or whatever. Nothing works properly, it's slow as hell, but goody you can like and put a smiley on each individual message !

I used to really like skype but it has now become one of the worst, and I'm still forced to use it due to several of my contacts being on it. Imho network effect is the only reason they aren't being mass dumped by users.


Would be really nice to hear from skype mobile's team. Wtf is going on there that stops them from shipping a quality product. There's long loading times, messages disappear, synchronization is as good as non existing.

There's not a "Skype Lite" for Android... which returns back to previous form. Why that was necessary only Microsoft knows.

Oh god there really is.

Installed it to try, and it starts by asking sms and contacts permissions, which seems innocent enough to integrate with your contact list, only to realize "upload all your contacts to microsoft periodically" is on without asking.

Microsoft, you're really terrible at this.

(bonus point that I can't fully uninstall regular Skype because it's a "native app" on my samsung s7 edge, so at best I can disable it and remove all permissions from it, awesome)


I'm running Skype Lite on android.

Err, yeah, the sentence was supposed to be "... there's now ...". Typo :(

I'll second this. I recently moved to a project that uses Outlook/Skype/Exchange for everything, and Skype is the bane of my experience. Why do I need a window for contacts separate from the actual conversations? Why do I need email recaps of every conversion, often times with redundant messages? Why can't I have a group chat that's intended to be a permanent 'room', and not just a collection of people who are virtually meeting? Skype intends you to exit the chat windows, and that's not how I use chat apps.

Is that Skype for business? I’m similarly stuck using it at work and it is uniquely awful.

We’ve been using it for years, but the video chat UI is so bad people struggle with it every single meeting. Even I forget from time to time.


That's definitely Skype for Business, and it is a trainwreck. It's also standing on foundations that are at least 15 years old, from the pre-Slack era of instant messaging - it works essentially the same as AIM, or SameTime, or Pidgin, or any of the IM clients of that era.

Good news for you, SFB is most likely going away soon; Microsoft is seemingly hell bent on rolling all of the things into Teams.


Don’t worry, they’ll make sure to replace teams with something else as soon as teams threatens to become a universal solution for business.

SFB is in my opinion just Lync still. They just changed the name and the design. Nothing else that I can see changed.

Since the update, I have no idea how to find people. I even type in their username on their and they're not found. I don't know how it works anymore.

Skype should be renamed to "Skype--" in the US. After MS bought it, it became a buggy piece of crap. Every new version had more useless features and was more prone to crashing/freezing up than the last. Screenshare and the other golden features became riddled with issues. Skype was once great. During the period in which it was down for "maintanence" many believe that spying measures were added. In any case, there are much better options these days considering how bloated and buggy the actual client-side software has become.

Agreed, the problem with Skype is not end-to-end encryption.

IMHO the last update killed it, awful interface and less features

major changes:

- the "favourites" list (useful) now it's a global directory (useless)

- cannot screen-share a window, only the whole screen (you start hearing the fan very soon on a 5k desktop)

- text chat is now 3 centimeters wide, regardless of screen size (=> useless, in particular if you are in an audio+text call)


Without this, where would we get all the work place camaraderie in meetings as people provide helpful suggestions to the presenter to get the remote site communication and sharing to connect!

From Hangouts commiseration, of course.

I agree. I still have no idea how to use the latest Skype version without constantly ending up in menus and with options that I weren't looking for.

However, I also completely lack the curiosity to figure it out. I just try to minimize using Skype as much as possible.

It's a vicious circle of wanting to flee and thereby not getting accustomed to it.


My favorites:

- If you click on a link in a conversation, it switches the focus to that link. If you start typing again, nothing will happen until you hit the spacebar, at which point the link will activate again.

- If you use the search function, there's no apparent way to get back to the most recent messages in that conversation. The only solution I've found is to quit the app and relaunch it.


They removed the search option åer conversation as well and made it match everything as long as it is written in the new client, aka totally utterly useless now. It annoys me so much!

What gets me is that there's no conversation list. So if a group conversation drops out of your <n> (15 for web skype?) most recent conversations, it's gone.

Speaking strictly about the "look and feel," I must say I love it. It's one of the most well-designed apps I've ever seen.

Per-UX, I've found Skype very difficult to use since the last major redesign a few(?) years ago. I'm not sure if the update made it worse. I feel generally confused just the same.


I am using it on Linux and I was very wary in the starting, but then it works so smooth, it is my preferred manner of video call instead of hangouts.

That update pushed me away from Skype to Signal.

Skype is part of X-KEYSCORE, so NOPE>

Screw Skype. That is all

Ugh, people are still using Skype?

Anecdotally, Skype seems to be the go-to solution for talking to infrequent business contacts. If you don't want to give somebody your personal number or your WhatsApp or similar, and they're not on your slack, but you want something quicker than email then Skype is the usual solution.

If you suggest some app they don't already know, it might feel like you're inconveniencing your contact. but everybody knows skype and it seems like there's an implicit understanding that if you aren't on skype you should be, so it's always the fallback option for chat apps.


What about something like https://appear.in?

Way less reliable, no persistent chat history, ... Helpful in some cases, but not a replacement.

yeah, looks cool. never heard of it before.

Still looking for something that is free, does (persistent) group chat, voice calls, file sharing, and group voice calls. Bonus if it shares screen.

Have tried various alternatives but actually not yet found anything that works as good as skype, despite having terrible UX. The sound quality is second to none and file sharing etc usually "just works".


Discord does all of this, though it's not E2E encrypted, and does it all with a fantastic UX.

For some reason having the (non business) Skype is not hard to sell in a big "old school" enterprise, because it's microsoft.

I'd have a much harder time selling Discord because of how they market themselves. They could make "discord for business" that is literally the same app and have great success.

Other than that my only complaint is that it's a bit electron-y.


> They could make "discord for business" that is literally the same app and have great success.

Discord is sometimes known as "slack for gamers" so you're effectively describing Slack :)


Yes. But slack, like HipChat thinks I want to pay 500MB RAM and $7 per user per month to chat and voice call.

Effectively all I want is a lean chat/voice app that’s also ideally free. This is pretty easy - but when you throw in the other Skype features (group voice, screen sharing, mobile apps) as requirements, it’s actually pretty hard to match in the free tier.

Skype is $0 regardless of company size and the resource use is pretty reasonable.

On that topic: Why aren’t more companies using discord instead of Slack? Looking at feature matrices it seems discord does in the free version a lot of what Slack does in paid (e.g group voice)?


One big reason not to is due to corporate policies, mostly could be summed into legal matters, such as privacy, usage rights etc.

If your in a position where you could convince an organization to use Discord for Business you could probably convince them to use Slack or Hipchat, both of which are better than Skype.

Slack and Hipchat are pretty expensive, and I’m actually less annoyed by horrible UX and ads in Skype, than by the resource usage of Slack. But again - so long as slack and HipChat are $5k+ per year they need to be a lot better than the free options.

And it's not tied to a phone number.

Anecdotally, everyone I knew on Skype has already migrated somewhere else and their account is now dormant, with the most frequent destination being Discord, which has the same kind of pseudonymous usernames. Some were active in 'gaming' communities, but others just wanted to keep at least one service where you can still chat without having to give out personal details. With the decline and staling of old-style IM networks, Discord has infringed on this space and is where most growth is taking place.

In most online communities, there will always be a place for an identity provider that doesn't require you to use a full name, and/or doesn't bind your login to your phone number. The addition of easy-to-use E2E crypto has been lagging among services like this, so this addition is welcome.

Skype still has a lot of brand recognition and mindshare among the older generations, and a large installed base, and so it remains useful for incidental chat in scenarios that Discord hasn't actively pursued, or situations which people's assumptions and associations with Discord's perceived nature would hinder.


You know that Skype is still the better cousin? Some of us have to use Skype4Business (previously Lync) at work. After you do that you get a boner at how good the consumer Skype is in comparison. E.g. in consumer Skype if you send a message you can be relatively sure the other party receives it!!!! What a great feature.

It is insane how awful Skype for Business is. In a previous company we started out using some open source XMPP based server for instant messaging which was cheap and reliable. Every year or so someone got the bright idea to "upgrade" to something more corporate/enterprisey. Each time this happened we adopted something worse, more expensive and less reliable. A couple of different rebrands of Cisco Webex Connect, Lync and culminating in the worst of the lot ... Skype For Business.

I cannot fathom how an IM app could be so poorly implemented, it seems almost intentional.


I think for the psychological development of a software developer it is very important to also spend some time in an Enterprise company. After 1-2 years of that you know exactly how such kind of software comes to be.

In my team we are currently developing a software where not even we know what it should do. And in every release cycle we spend incredible amounts man hours just to be able to install it again. And still, in the company internal competition we often lose against teams with better political standings to the top, who haven't even written a single line of code yet for their competing product.

I can see that there is a lot of money in Enterprise, and I can see how it's kept alive by each of these enterprises selling their non-functioning tools to each other. But I really don't know where the influx of money to that system is. Nobody with a brain would pay a million bucks for a software that is proud to be installable, if he could spend the same money on hiring an engineer for 10 years and let him learn how to apply an open source solution that everybody knows does what you want after you installed it.


Yes, more people than ever.

Did Skype for Business already have E2E encryption or no? Would seem like a no-brainer.

Depending on your industry, E2E encryption is actively not a thing you want because you have legal requirements to keep logs of conversations.

Also, it's not clear it makes much sense, even if you don't have that requirement - in just about every company, you want the helpdesk / IT department / some other central authority to be able to do password resets, which means that the central authority has the cryptographic ability to impersonate any user in the company. (Maybe this triggers logs, but protocol-wise, they can still read and write messages.) So E2E isn't really helping you; you might as well just encrypt all the messages to a key held by the central authority.

E2E is great for conversations between members of the public, where there isn't a central authority that determines identities, and where if you forget your password, the right way to regain access to the conversation is to meet your conversation partner in person and re-exchange cryptographic identities with them, end-to-end.


E2E doesn't mean no logs, your Skype logs can usually be exported locally.

Sure, but the compliance requirement is that logs need to be automatically exported and archived by the IT department, without an option for the user to avoid giving logs. What does E2E benefit you at that point? The message contents, which are what E2E protects, are being copied off to some separate server.

(I'd buy the argument "You should design all your protocols E2E first, and then add logging/escrow, instead of designing them less secure and bolting E2E on later," but Skype for Business already exists without E2E so that's a lost cause in this particular case.)


What does E2E benefit you at that point?

Message confidentiality between businesses. Did you perhaps think SfB only works between users in the same organization?


Oh, that makes sense. What does it currently use to authenticate between businesses - MS accounts or public PKI or something? Or is it trust-on-first-use?

I'm having trouble finding all the docs for setting up Skype for Business federation but it looks like the latter. Since "end" here I think means the business and not the individual user account (for the same reason - all the compliance logs, all the password reset abilities, etc. applies to conversations with other businesses), if they do trust-on-first-use certificate validation of the other business, isn't that already as E2E as you're going to get?


> Did you perhaps think SfB only works between users in the same organization?

Yes? Doesn't the client connect to exactly one server [pool], which hosts exactly one organization?


The servers can federate.

Skype For Business shudder

Just curious, what do you use ?

[flagged]


Your first "source" claims that Signal was funded by a part of the US government that is very much not the NSA - which is well-known and well-publicized. Your second "source" is about Skype, not Signal (and the only meaningful mention of the NSA is a rumor that they're willing to fund third parties who can effectively break the encryption, not that they're willing to fund MS to remove it, anyway).

The most effective thing the NSA could do to weaken Signal is fund people to spread FUD about it on message boards and drive people to inferior solutions. I'm not saying they're doing that, but it would be way more effective than providing funding to an open, peer-reviewed protocol and implementation.


If RFA funding means "blessed by the NSA" it will be hard to find an open source cryptography project that isn't blessed by the NSA, because RFA funds (or funded) audits of everything. Source: ran a security consultancy, was offered (and sometimes accepted) RFA funding to do crypto audits. I don't think you understand the cites you're providing.

You can't make a claim like that and not cite any sources.

You don't think, maybe, Radio Free Asia (funding from the Broadcasting Board of Governors) is providing funding to Signal so Asians (like the Chinese) have a surveillance free communication option? The US government is bigger than the NSA.

Maybe they have an 'understanding' about the implementation of the cryptography as they do with WhatsApp, meaning the program doesn't notify you when your opposite's keys change, leaving unscrupulous users (most) susceptible to MitM attacks, which could be used by law enforcement or three-letter-agencies. Plus, Skype probably still makes extensive use of meta-data, Signal allege that they don't, but we can't really assess what's actually running on their servers, despite the use of the AGPL.

Why would you want to assess what's actually running on their servers? Even if you know the code on it, you have no guarantee it's not running inside a hypervisor that logs the contents of memory, or something.

In terms of cryptographic robustness, it's good for an app like Signal to have a closed-source server, because it forces you to not trust the server.

(This is of course separate from whether it's good for the Signal server to be free software for inherent free-software morality reasons.)


True, but it seems like wishful thinking for Internet users to reasonably assess the dangers of trusting the 'Cloud' with private data.

Still, I think the most important breaches of privacy are not necessarily in decoding the messages themselves, but rather everything from location data to contact lists including time and number of communications these apps have access to by default.


Maybe it’s beside the point, but to be clear, Signal Server source is available here: https://github.com/WhisperSystems/Signal-Server

Signal takes metadata protection very seriously: https://signal.org/bigbrother/

You know what else absolutely stinks? Skype in general. I cannot fathom why something so simple as remembering conversation history is beyond their engineers.

But... Skype does remember conversation history?

Hm, I seem to also have issues with Skype history. I can't find a way in the new UI to go back more than ~6 months of conversation history.

I lost an semi-important document that was shared with me over skype because of that.


> I can't find a way in the new UI to go back more than ~6 months of conversation history.

First, you'll want to make sure Skype is set to keep message history forever: Skype -> Privacy -> Keep history for... -> Forever

Then, you can right-click on a contact -> View Old Messages -> 1 Year, etc.

This is assuming you're using Skype, and not Skype for Business; they are not the same: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_for_Business


Not the version I use for work. If you close the conversation, the history is gone, unless you fancy digging it up in Outlook, which of course you don't, because the way it is stored there is terrible.

There's about 50% chance Outlook failed to store it too. Skype for business is really failing at the basics.

Just a guess, but you may be using Skype for Business, which is a completely different product with just a similarity in name.


Teams is much better than SfB, and I think if your org pays for SfB it also has access to Teams.

That's a setting. Your IT team may have chosen it.

2/4 of the links in your sources don't work.

I don't see any evidence that the OTF is a front for the NSA, or that you think somebody with the capability to make that in a year would sell their soul for $455,000.


The OTF is specifically a (non-secret) front for Radio Free Asia, whose mission is to work in other countries against their NSA equivalents. The best thing the OTF can do is to fund actually honestly secure crypto, because if there's a hidden weakness the NSA can use, there's too much of a risk that one of the countries Radio Free Asia is trying to work against is going to find it.

(Yes, technically, a keyed "backdoor" would work and allow the NSA alone to hold the corresponding private key, but also Signal's client code is public so there isn't really a place to put one of those without anyone noticing.)


whose mission is to work in other countries against their NSA equivalents.

That's not really a sensible way to describe either their officially stated or inferred mission.


Maybe s/against their NSA equivalents/against government oppression/ would be more accurate - partly because that's what their mission actually is, partly because in theory the NSA isn't an agent of government oppression in the US. (But that's what the worry about NSA funding Signal is about.)

yeah... um. Why would Signal (OpenWhisper) sully their name by coordinating efforts with MS? MS doesn't have a great track record at being an advocate for privacy or user security...

The mission of OpenWhisper is to bring e2e encryption to the masses, not to make Signal the messenger the dominant IM tool. They succeed spectacularly by making the popular IMs adopt Signal the protocol.

Considering they partnered with facebook, they don't quite see it that way, instead looking at it as a way to bring good e2e crypto to millions of people.

It's a tradeoff.


They will get paid probably plus it gives them free marketing for Signal. It's a win win situation. :)



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