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Microsoft Turned Consumers Against the Skype Brand (bloomberg.com)
433 points by gorbachev on May 10, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 418 comments



"Since acquiring Skype from private equity investors, Microsoft has refocused the online calling service on the corporate market, a change that has made Skype less intuitive and harder to use ..."

This is absolutely not the bulk of the problem: simply put, the call quality is horrendous and dropping calls in the middle of the meeting is quite common. Modus operandi in most Skype conference calls in our company is to spend the first 4-5 minutes in handshaking ("can you hear me") and troubleshooting problems.


I don't understand how software can get this much worse. Having done absolutely nothing would have left Skype in a better shape than what we have now.

What did they do with it? Do they not regression test? Are they letting each new intern add a new feature while nobody really cares about quality? Did they just replace the old software with a new bug-riddled software that's getting pushed out the door without quality checks? Is it some manager trying to earn a medal by using that new MS-framework to rebuild everything and needing to push it out fast to declare success and move up while leaving the ruins behind?


Always when you hear the word "Enterprise" and it's not related to Star Trek it usually means "company that has made it so far and so stable up on the food chain that from now on they don't need to work hard anymore". If you have never worked in Enterprise software development, think about putting 100 first semester students into a room full of drugs and costumes and then letting them act "professional".

What do you think happens if you hand over a relatively well developed software to such a team? Now let a few years pass and you have today's Skype.


Amusing, but the issues with Enterprise Software are far more complex than that. Having spent my career working with Enterprises of one sort or another, here are a few off the top of my head:

1. You are not the customer.

With ad-driven products, we have painfully realized that if we aren't paying, we aren't the customer, and when something seems awful to us, the explanation often lies in the fact that the thing that is awful to us benefits the real customer, or perhaps that the thing that benefits us is of little value to the real customer compared to things that do not benefit us.

The same is true of Enterprise Software. Most users are not the software's customer, and therefore their needs are subordinate to the needs of the individuals and departments who are actually paying for it.

2. Pricing-Driven Development

As Spolsky famously pointed out, Enterprises forcibly impose an insane cost-of-sales on software vendors. When you have to employ expensive salespeople, prepare proposals, apocryphally play golf with clients, or whatever, vendors must build those costs into the cost of the product.

Then they must justify those costs with features that sound like they produce big values. Typically these are not going to be things that make users' lives easier, they are going to be things that users may never see, like analytics and back-office integrations.

Like the "you are not the customer" problem above, this tends to create the illusion that the software sucks and that the vendor isn't improving it. In actual fact, the vendor is locked into a Red Queen's Race with competing vendors, and is improving the software constantly. It's just that users never benefit from the improvements, because UX improvements are not thought to "move the needle."


> Then they must justify those costs with features that sound like they produce big values. Typically these are not going to be things that make users' lives easier, they are going to be things that users may never see, like analytics and back-office integrations.

Yes, and depending on the enterprise, these "big features only there to justify high costs" may not actually be needed or useful or relevant. It might be 'OK' to have a bunch of interns slap something together, if it only needs to be "real" enough to look pretty and look functional in a few demos or in a few specific happy-day cases.

Analytics and Reporting is probably the most common example I've seen of this -- it's not a bad feature on it's own, but companies will sometimes pay top dollar for it, even in places it makes no sense and/or will never get used. If that gets delivered in a broken/unusable state, it's "ok" because the customer will never actually click that button anyway.

----

If "New Skype" is "enterprise communication support" in a corporate feature list (and not a real product filling a real need, as it used to be) then I can see how a broken or unusable Skype could still be a 'success' for Microsoft.

Note: I don't agree with any or support any of this. But I've seen this play out in real life enough to know it happens.


This cuts both ways. We frequently get requirements in an RFP that we've got to put resources into supporting, but when everything gets put into place, the customer never uses the feature that they demanded. They wasted the cost of our investment into their demands.


>their needs are subordinate to the needs of the individuals and departments who are actually paying for it.

Are you implying people are paying for dropped calls and poor performance as a feature?


The people experiencing dropped calls aren't the people who made the purchasing decision. The people experiencing poor performance don't have a say in the matter and are required to use the tool, and the people who made the purchasing decision are getting what they want out of the deal.


In case of my company (a 40k employees multinational), everybody gets to suffer from Skype for Business' ridiculousness, I'm guessing even the people who bought it (heck, I'm guessing even the CEO is cursing it on a regular basis). Still, we use it.


Skype for business is not even 'skype'. Actually, it's "lync" branded as skype. Overall it's an awful product with hilarious built-in html render that ends in CPU saturation during group chat and a bit of html content. It takes like a minute to close itself if there are 20-30 chats.


Right. As a Linux user I skipped most of Skype for Business experience. It cannot even do passive screen sharing (i. e. display what others share). A web client that cannot show all contents... And that for a paid service, every free aka customer is the product service works in Linux browsers.

The old normal (not for business) Skype Linux client could even do active screen sharing (share your own screen) on Linux. Although it was limited to 1:1 calls IIRC. Haven't checked whether they have managed to break/remove that in the new Linux client...


Even the executable is still named lync


And this is proof that Microsoft is still a monopoly, because they can still force people to use software they don't want. Microsoft's biggest accomplishment in technology in the last 20 years is to teach everyone that software is horrible and there's nothing that can be done about it.


Windows, macOS and iOS quality usability and discoverability have dropped year on year, Linux usability has stayed abhorrent, every major website I use that has done a big redesign has made it worse for me with more focus on whitespace, style, hiding UI elements, and adverts than substance and usability. Google search experience has gone seriously downhill, Amazon's marketplace and search has increasing quality problems, Facebook's redesigns are much hated, Reddit's redesign has hidden UI features and turned it into a bloated whitespace-obsessed ad-heavy image-centric style. Chrome, Firefox, the hiding of useful UI elements, the increasing resource demands.

Software is horrible.

Software that looked like Excel 2000 with visible accelerators was clean, easy to use, discoverable, fast, not very aesthetically pleasing but at least consistent. macOS of 5+ years ago was more human-friendly.


>Linux usability has stayed abhorrent

Linux usability is only abhorrent if you use Gnome (3). It's fine with KDE, Xfce, and others. I started using Xfce recently at work and it's great: usability is just what I expect (i.e. it doesn't do any weird UI experiments like Gnome3, Windows, etc.), it's stable and reliable, and discoverable since it was designed back when they thought discoverability was a good thing. KDE5 is pretty good too.

Stop using UIs that have been taken over by people trying to "revolutionize" UIs and you won't have the problems you're seeing. Linux has plenty of such UIs, but for some odd reason they're not the default setting of the mainstream distros.


I'm not even talking of GUIs, I'm talking of exchanges like this:

root@server:~# ip route add 192.168.1.0/30 10.0.0.1

Error: either "to" is duplicate, or "10.0.0.1" is a garbage.

The "help" is literally a dump of the grammar, which doesn't contain enough detail to add a route (the syntax of PREFIX is not described). The error message is bafflingly useless. Of all the options available relating to routing, the two I use most are "route a network via a gateway IP" and "remove a route" and I'm going to guess that those are the two most common operations for most people not doing any advanced networking.

Note that this is the replacement to the old "route" command, which had a single line of help: "inet_route [-vF] add {-host|-net} Target[/prefix] [gw Gw]" which is way way more helpful for this use case!

Of course it's possible to go into `man ip` and then find routing help is elsewere and go into `man ip-route` and at the bottom of a 400 line document there is /a single example/ of adding a default route which doesn't include a subnet definition, and then to decode that the error message about duplicate/garbage means "you didn't add the word "via"" and then to backtrack into the grammar dump and trace where that was mentioned.

And of course this is but one tool.

And of course it's better for many use cases that it be stable and performant than that it be frilly.

But all over, it feels like this. Usability, quality error messages, making the common things easy and discoverable, are all afterthoughts with priorities somewhere between "caveat user" and "it's free so shut up" and "we refuse to change it because ~POSIX~" and "usability is for wimps, Linux is for clever people (where clever means 'able to edit a text file and willing to do everything the hard way')" and "we benefit from people buying RedHat Certifications so why should we make it any easier than we have to?".

I'm not saying it's incapable or unstable or useless, but I am saying usability for common tools and overall experience is really, really, really, really poor. With possible exception "install Ubuntu/Mint/flavour-of-day and run FireFox to get to your Googles".


I think it's because if you start using Linux, you want to feel like you're using something new and high-tech. So the super-chrome UIs tend to win out.

I like my setup (i3wm), but it would be a horrible default. You have to read a manual to make it usable. Gnome is a kind of nice default - since everything looks modern and works out of the box.


They're not a monopoly, and they're not forcing anyone to use software they don't want. There's a bunch of different options if you don't like Skype. I've used GoToMeeting in the recent past, and it worked fine. The problem is that people are just too stupid to look for alternatives to Microsoft products, and would rather complain than do something about it.


Oh, my, the customers got stupider. They could use the old skye just fine, but then the IQ sank - and its been rock bottom ever since.

Completely impplaussible that maybe those stupid people do not use the alternatives, because they suck even more? As in, they are non standardized, not easy to setup et etc.


>They could use the old skye just fine

The old Skype was great. But it's gone now; that's how the world works: things change, and not always for the better. You have to adapt.

>Completely impplaussible that maybe those stupid people do not use the alternatives, because they suck even more?

Given all the complaints I've seen about new-Skype? No. It's because people are just too stupid to look for alternatives when the thing they've been using turns to crap.

>As in, they are non standardized, not easy to setup et etc.

The newer alternatives are web-based and easy (or, at least, no more difficult than new-Skype). And WTF does "standardized" mean? There's no standardization for video chat programs; that makes as much sense as asking about standardization for social media websites like Facebook.


I'm implying that sometimes, "Improve ability to handle scale as measured by X improvement in dropped calls and Y improvement in user-reported call quality" is always going to be in the backlog, but it is probably being starved by other initiatives like "Support integration with BigClient Internal System Z."

That's a scenario where the needs of the people making and receiving calls are subordinate to the needs of the people paying for Skype.


But reading what I wrote, I see why you asked. Yes, sometimes there is a thing that is bad for the user and simultaneously perceived to be good for the person paying, like a lot of the ceremony you have to do to get anything to happen in JIRA.

But sometimes it is a question of different priorities, and I did not mention that above. Good catch.


That sounds plausible but does not explain why UI became so progressively horrible lately. I get that they may be developing corporate features I can't see, but why did they spend time on developing series of new UIs, each of them slower and crappier than the previous one?


How does one play golf apocryphally?


Playing without the intention of treating it as a sport, but as an excuse to drink outdoors.


Somehow... that doesn't sound quite right.


I think they meant "apothecarily". As in, I play golf to self medicate.


Hilarious, I want to snarf that!

But actually, I meant that it is apocryphal that salespeople have to play golf to close Enterprise Sales. It's more of a stand-in catch-all term for semi-formal socializing with the client.


Right but it's not really apocryphal because apocryphal doesn't connote or denote stereotypical, proverbial, cliche, conventional wisdom, caricature, etc. Salespeople playing golf with customers to close enterprise sales is not some uncertain thing that has reached us through dubious sources.


It isn't? I certainly doubt whether it's true (not being in enterprise sales myself and not being important enough to end up on the other side of those sales) enough to make a cliche (I don't doubt somewhere somebody invited a client to golf to make a sale - but how common is it?) and haven't seen any reliable sources on the prevalence of it.


It's a big fat cliche. For instance, here's how Tony Rodoni (Executive Vice President for the Commercial Business Unit at Salesforce.com) starts a blog post of some sort:

"When I started in sales, my boss told me, "Your job is to get to know your customer and build a relationship. Nothing is more important than building a relationship.” The second most important thing was to make sure that the customer always won when we played golf."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/salesforce/2017/01/03/the-death...


I have been trying to find that Spolsky article, please link it up if you can


"Ask Joel," February, 2004, fourth item:

https://discuss.fogcreek.com/askjoel/default.asp?cmd=show&ix...

"With software sold in corporations, as soon as your price gets up in the $3000 level, the amount of approval it needs is so absurd that you are not going to sell products without a salesperson making a few visits. Hiring the salesperson, sending them out to make presentations, hotels, airfare -- now it costs $50,000 to get the sale done just in sales closing costs. That's why you see a lot of software products at $100,000 and a lot under $3000, but anywhere in-between and it's impossible to make sales. (It's sort of funny -- these big corporations create so much bureaucracy around purchasing in order to protect themselves against losing money, but they just force the vendors to spend a fortune on salesforces, which results in vastly higher prices for the big corporations)."


I couldn't agree with this more! What really characterizes 'enterprise software' is that the people selecting and buying it are different people than the people who have to use it.

'enterprise software' is sold to stove-pipe organizations. It can be all sorts of awful for the people who actually have to use it, as long as the people making the purchasing decision come out of the deal looking good. The software vendor isn't set up to be able to iterate and improve based on customer feedback, and their customers aren't set up to be able to offer that feedback. Hence 'enterprise software' remains in a perpetual state of awfulness and anything good about it is purely accidental.


Exactly.

There is a similar phenomenon with hotels. Some hotels cater to people who pay with their own money, others to people on expense accounts.

The hotels that cater to people on expense accounts often have what appears to be terrible customer service, but that's only because the "guests" are not the customer, the accounts payable and event management groups are the customers.

Those users get great features they care about, like unified billing across multiple groups in multiple locations, &c &c.


Can you specify which hotels are the ones that cater to people on expense accounts please? I've never heard this, but it makes sense and I'd like to avoid those hotels.


It used to be that you could apply "The Coffee Test:" When I started my career, the hotels that gave you free coffee (either in the room, or in the lobby) catered to people paying their own way. The hotels that made you call room service and order a $6 cup of instant, plus tip... They catered to corporations.

Nowadays almost everyone has some kind of instant coffee machine in the room. It could be that free WiFi is the new marker for quickly delineating one from the other.


Wifi and continental breakfast. At cheaper hotels, both will often be free.

In an interesting twist, while a free continental breakfast will often be significantly lower quality than a paid higher-end breakfast, I've found that the free wifi is almost always significantly better than the paid wifi.

In fact, many business hotels have tiered wifi plans. And they all suck, even their most expensive plans will be worse than the Motel 8 down the street.


Ok, but I'm still wondering which hotels are these corporate-friendly anti-consumer hotels. I haven't seen any hotels with non-free Wifi, and I've stayed at quite a few different big ones.

As for continental breakfast, sure it's not as good as some really good sit-down breakfast restaurant, but it's free and more importantly it's fast: you just go down to the lobby and either eat it there or grab some stuff and take it back to your room to munch on before you leave for the day. It's a big time-saver. Going to a separate restaurant and waiting for food to be made for you and delivered and then waiting and waiting and waiting for the waiter to bring you the check takes a lot of time.


I too have never stayed anywhere without free WiFi, and I travel for my work, thus I'm staying at corporate-approved hotels, for maybe 30-40 nights per year in various cities and hotel chains. And these aren't fancy hotels either, much cheaper than places I'd stay if I was on holiday enjoying myself.

The closest I've seen was a budget hotel where I stayed (not for work) after a huge party. The WiFi at that hotel was free, but it was heavily rate-limited and the rate-limits were lifted for a fee. You could use basic web pages, but Youtube wasn't possible without paying.


You said it yourself "these aren't fancy hotels" - that's the point. The better and fancier the hotel, the more you pay for the room, the less likely you are to get free wifi.

I've stayed in some nice hotels in the U.S. and in a wide variety of hotels internationally. The best "nice U.S. hotel wifi" would often rank around the average 3rd world "acceptable" hotel.


Any hotel nicer than your average Sheraton (Weston, W Hotels, etc.) will not have free Wi-Fi. Sheratons might not even have free Wi-Fi. Where you have been staying seem like they'd be classified as "motels" (like a Best Western Express or whatever) not actual "hotels".


I tend to stay in the nicer class of hotels, and I can't remember the last time I paid for WiFi (though there often is a paid tier available with ostensibly better throughput, and sometimes there are restrictions on # of devices or such).


I think what you say is possibly true, but like other posters here I do not recall paying for wifi in recent years and I also stay at many different hotels. I have seen services where you can pay for better throughput or for a public IP. I wonder if perhaps I and the other posters are not being charged for wifi due to "status". That is, we have been flagged by the hotel chains as valuable customers and free wifi is a perk of that status. E.e. "platinum" status or similar.


Prove it.

I've been staying at places like Holiday Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Country Inn & Suites, Courtyard, etc., which area all most certainly "hotels" and all of them have free Wifi.


At the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, where I've stayed in the past, wifi wasn't free. I've heard that's changed but I haven't checked the website to confirm. Rooms are roughly 300USD/night.


Mariott-branded Mariott, such as the Courtyard. DoubleTree by Hilton. Generically, airport hotels.


Stayed at a Courtyard on HongKong just two weeks ago. Wifi was free.


Do you not live in the US?


Backpacker hostels also generally have great free wifi.

Agree - 5 star hotels have the worst. Clunky, shitty, login procedures and laugh out loud ridiculous pricing models.

This is similar to the situation for tourist visas in various countries. The shittiest countries that you absolutely would never want to overstay in have the most difficult to obtain visas. I once got a visa to go to bangladesh - it was expensive, took 2 months to get, and I still had to bribe 2 different people when I got to dhaka airport to get through.


Also one of the reasons business laptops could get away with awful displays for such a long time.


Skype for business is absolutely excellent though. We run it as the sole phone service for more than 10.000 employees and it’s the best we’ve ever had software wise. Further than that I can find, chat with or call my counterparts from our neighboring municipalities as though they were from our own.

We also frequently use it for video meetings on our Microsoft surface (or whatever that 80” touch screen thing is called) and it works like a charm.

Private or normal Skype is one of the worst apps I’ve tried in 2018 though.

I wonder if it’s because they tore out the peer-to-peer stuff that made Skype great in the oldendays and replaced it with azure.


> Skype for business is absolutely excellent though.

I beg to differ on this.. we use Skype for business and have heard nothing but complaints.

One personal beef I have with it is IM messages don't sync between devices. I start a chat with someone on my workstation then when I leave my desk and try to see it on my phone it's unavailable. Or same issue when switching between an RDP and local session.


If you enabled it (it is by default I believe), the conversations are stored in Outlook.

It sucks... but you can still get to them if you have access to Outlook.


When you say "you" here, do you mean "you" or the BOFH somewhere who controls the Exchange server? I stopped opening Lync at work because, among other issues, it wouldn't save conversations and I couldn't figure out how to make it do so.


Most versions of Lync/Skype for Business allow you to keep conversation history locally in Outlook. It's under Skype for Business> tools> options> Personal> check whether you have ticked “save IM conversations in my email Conversation History folder”. It can be disabled by the SfB admins though.

Newer versions do support server side logging to your Outlook mailbox too but it must be configured by the SfB and Exchange admins.


Doesn't work ~50% of the time though.


I've not once had a problem with Skype for Business and I've been using it since it was released


I must be using a different skype for business then, ours can't even handle copy and paste from the chat window. It will regularly lose messages or send them to the wrong group. Sometimes you'll get a new message notification but the actual message will arrive several second later. It takes several seconds to close the chat window if there are a few conversations open.

And that's just the issues we have trying to send text, don't get me started on the video and audio.


Oh and whoever decided that Win+F4 is an appropriate shortcut key for Mute Microphone can go fly a freaking kite.

Seriously. On what planet is this ever acceptable. It seems like a sophomore joke.


I am completely unable to view my message history. And worse I have a missed message notification that refuses to go away. Somewhere along the line I missed a message but there's nothing there to see....

What a piece of garbage.


Absolutely! I was reading these replies and thinking nothing made sense. Didn't realise there were companies trying to use consumer Skype for their corporate calls.

We have SfB handling everything at work - including PSTN - and it works fabulously all the time.


> I was reading these replies and thinking nothing made sense.

You can blame Microsoft for the confusion since they renamed Lync to SfB in order to leech off the (non-enterprise) Skype brand. I wonder if they will rename SfB again should the "Skype" become more toxic.


The next name for their corporate product is MS Teams.


This has not been my experience with SfB

From "robot voice" to poor sound quality to randomly dropped calls, to screen shares not working, have been a daily occurrence for me.


Add random crashes, windows not refreshing until you restart the app, app being slow as hell in general or my personal favorite - the "feature" that if you unmute your microphone within first couple seconds of joining the call, you're dropped from it (it's 100% repeatable across the whole company I work in).


Skype for business is shit. It filters content. I cannot paste an error to a colleague, because it's "too large". If I first write a meaningless "Hi" instead, I can paste the text just fine.

Settings revert a lot.

It's damn slow for remote sessions. Barely usable, really. File transfers don't work most of the time (and are slow).

Phone service? Call quality is really really bad.

The mobile app (Android at least) eats battery like candy, fails to send messages and is crashing a lot.

Lync/Skype for Business is a daily pain to suffer here.


> Skype for business is absolutely excellent though. We run it as the sole phone service for more than 10.000 employees and it’s the best we’ve ever had software wise.

The company I was working for had Skype for Business, and the video calls were such a disaster that people would secretly use Hangouts for every meeting that didn't have higher-ups participating.


Totally disagree. I work with HPE (went to Skype around 18 mo ago?) and other large OEMs/software publishers, and collaborating from OUTSIDE the four walls of the Skype-implementing organization has gotten atrocious. Imagine driving on 101 and need to join a call...but you realize it's Skype, so there's not a one-click call-in...you hope that the app will open but first the url opens a webpage...then you authorize opening in the app called "Business", then you try to spell your name...ugh


Also, when clicking on their "web client", you immediately get a cab file (windows installer file) download request. I'm on Linux. What am I supposed to do with that file?

It's like the SfB team still lives in the "everybody uses Windows" mindset of the 90's.

The only alternative on Linux is tel.red, which works, but only for an incredibly loose definition of the word "work". I've never used a buggier piece of software.


oes Zoom support linux?


I've tried Skype for Business and found it lacking. Skype for Business (now years into availability) doesn't handle screen control across the only two OSes it purports to "support" (MacOS and Windows). I think interactive drawing is also not supported everywhere.

From what I'm told, the Skype for Business back-end is not enterprise-ready, by which I mean the back-end is written to assume that one user or one set of users has admin control over all the lines set up in the system. So one user or set of users remains in charge of all of the telephony details (role-based accounts, response groups, etc.). A proper enterprise-ready program allows the admin capabilities to be limited to groups of users and delegate functionality to those groups for certain lines. This arrangement lets you have multiple simultaneous admins edit different non-conflicting details (such as setup for two different response groups) simultaneously with no problems. This means large organizations with lots of somewhat independent groups have to set up work queues where someone in each group files a request for the Skype for Business admin(s) to work on requests (e.g. Please make 123-555-1234 a response group set up in the following way...). This slows down an admin in any of those groups considerably as those admins wait for their work requests to be fulfilled or further questions to be sent back in response.

Also some of the limits in Skype for Business strike me as silly: one of them concerns response groups (a Skype for Business term for how inbound calls are routed to a series of receptionists called "agents" in Skype for Business parlance). If you want a response group where some of the agents are allowed to decide whether they want to receive the calls (known as a "formal login" response group in Skype for Business parlance), and other users are required to receive the calls (an "informal login") you can't have both of these kinds of agents in the same response group. You have to set it up so that, say, the informal login agents get the call first and (if they don't take the call after a few seconds) the call is passed to the formal login agents.

From what I'm told, Skype for Business doesn't handle nested directory service groups properly when those groups contain sets of agents (which I understand Skype for Business treats as distribution lists when one uses Microsoft's directory server Active Directory). If that's so, this means that organizations that keep tidy directory service hierarchies can't reuse their groups efficiently.


SfB was really bad upon initial release but it's gotten pretty good. No complaints.


>putting 100 first semester students into a room full of drugs and costumes and then letting them act "professional".

That had to be the most succinct description of the corporate work environment I've ever encountered. I'm shamelessly stealing that. Well said.


no problem, CC-BY-SA.


Sounds good enough. Bonus points, it will prevent anyone with a significant legal team from using it.


Did you just license your phrase?


You can also buy an enterprise license. Just contact our very competent sales team for a quote and NDA.


But what about support? What if I deploy the phrase but experience unexpected results? I think we'll need the one named after your favorite expensive metal.


Of course with the Enterprise license you'll get support, meaning we offer you access to a free Web1.0 form, which is much better than an email address because it will completely ignore all your new lines, and we guarantee that we will answer within 24 hours that we are looking into it.


...they will be wearing costumes, be on drugs, and be dedicated to "professionalism".

You will not able to get a quote without a meeting in person to discuss "features and options" of the product in order to "synergize with your existing ERP marketplace strategy".


You want people to note the differences from the version you wrote?


Can't you creeps ever just let a joke slide?


I think the issue here is that when Microsoft purchased Skype and decided to fold it into their Office product, the customer fundamentally changed. They used the market share of the name to carry the product to a new customer base. Unfortunately the existing customer base was alienated.

This definitely isn't the first time (and won't be the last) this has happened in the industry. It's always sad when it does, but it also always opens a door for a new company to create a product that fills the void.


Enterprise software is a catch-all term, I worked on enterprise software and none of our customers were bigger than 500 users, most were less than 100.

Enterprise software comes in a huge variety of quality.


Enterprise software is a nebulous term, I understand you hear a vague description of large software when you read it. Personally, to me, Enterprise is an entirely negative adjective, implying a software that spends more effort trying to do things it needs to do to support itself than it does trying to solve problems.

Enterprise also carries the meaning (again for me) of terribly architected software, possibly designed by someone who read about microservices and took it to the extreme that they've got an AWS lambda for doing strpad.


Or in the case of Microsoft, the software has been around since the DOS days and is nothing but legacy kludges.

Look at Office for an example. It's a 30-year-old code base and everything about it shows. Office is clearly designed to maximize the number of tick marks marketing can put in their materials, and very little else.


I would argue that Office is one of the least applicable examples here. Software with such a mind-bogglingly large install base would be very difficult to improve, but they keep doing it relatively well. Recent versions of Office are significantly better even than a couple years ago in terms of stability, performance and functionality. Find me a better desktop office suite.

I think a lot of the flack Office catches is because of how wide it casts its net. Just because you don't use a piece of functionality doesn't mean that it is bad.


I'll have to take your word for it that it's gotten better. I try to minimize my exposure to Office as much as possible.

I used to think Excel was the one exception to Office being awful until I was assigned a project creating an app in Excel using VBA and found out how incredibly fragile Excel is. This was about 6 years ago.

However, I don't think anyone thinks Office is bad because it has stuff they don't use, but that the stuff they do use either doesn't work well (e.g., Outlook) or it's too hard to use (e.g., Word).


> project creating an app in Excel using VBA

Oh yeah, this is generally where I'd say things start to fall over. A development platform, it ain't. Generally my advice around VBA is that if you're at the stage you need anything but the simplest VBA, you probably want something else (Access for DB style work or Python/R for data munging).

Outlook has got much better - most of the previous issues around lockups and poor performance have improved if not gone away entirely. Can't speak for Exchange.


Well, you can make up a definition yourself if you want, doesn't change the actual meaning though.


I am pretty sure they had such tests, and they tested everything in their corporate network and maybe uptown where the engineers live.


They just stopped paying attention to Skype and renamed Lync/Office Communications Server/Live Communications Server to “Skype for Business”. They are distinct things that suck in their own unique ways for their own unique reasons.

Lync was a garbage product, and renaming it didn’t magically fix it. Almost a decade into its inclusion in Office 365, it still doesn’t integrate with AD the same way as the rest of Office. The whole product saddles the customer with a bizarre application architecture that pushes complexity on the customer. (Pop a beer and check out the networking requirements sometime! https://support.office.com/en-us/article/office-365-urls-and... )

Both Microsoft and Google fubar this function because these text/voice/meeting products really exist because the vendors see them as a lever to control their enterprise customers. Offering a function, coherent communications platform is a secondary or teritary consideration.


This happened because they migrated skype from a peer to peer software to centralized servers. While this has enabled certain innovations, like web-based skype and better integeration with other devices, it negatively impacted overall quality of skype.


It also got the US Intelligence Community off they are back as it gives them a single point of interception.


Slack did the same thing with the ScreenHero service they acquired and it had the same effect: much more lag and worse quality.


You can't have peer-to-peer and expect it to work on mobile phones.


Why not? The signaling layer DHT probably shouldn't be on the phone clients, but everything else should be fine.


Because data plans and batteries run out too quickly. And the quality of the networks is really bad compared to non-mobile networks


Right, so like I said, don't run the signalling DHT on the phones, but run it on everything else.


For peer-to-peer to work you need to reroute data/traffic through nodes as well. You you can't really do that on mobile devices because once again: data, battery, network reliability.

If you don't do that and connect directly to a central node, you've done what Skype has done: become a client-server application with centralised servers.


I'm saying make the nodes heterogeneous, and classify them into "actively participates in the primary functions of the distributed network", and "simply receives pushes that are related to me".


What you're saying is: make all mobile nodes clients to centralised servers ;)

As a result, it's much easier to maintain a single architecture than two different architectures with rapidly diminishing number of desktop nodes taking all the traffic.


...no. It's totally fine to have a decentralized network with a subset of the nodes doing more work depending on what their users want. TOR works like that, PopcornTime did that, etc. Hell, the original Skype network did that to. Gnutella was pretty asymmetric as well.

> rapidly diminishing number of desktop nodes

Do you have any data on that? Or are you counting laptops here as mobile for some reason?


"depending on what users want"

What a nice techy answer. Users want an audii-video application that didn't suck their data plans dry by sharing their network bandwidth with other participants in the peer-to-peer network.

The moment you stop sharing your bandwidth and CPU you become a client-server application.

> Do you have any data on that

Any source you pick. And no, it doesn't include laptops. Just an example: https://searchengineland.com/report-57-percent-traffic-now-s...


> The moment you stop sharing your bandwidth and CPU you become a client-server application.

Even if there's no fixed server you're talking to? You seem to have this weird idea that you can't have a heterogenous peer to peer application.


1. When a client does not share its bandwidth its stops being a part of a peer-to-peer network. It becomes a part of a client-server set up.

2. The fact that the server is not fixed doesn't make it a peer-to-peer system. Example: when you watch a video on Youtube, the video isn't streamed from a fixed server. This doesn't make Youtube or whatever client you use to watch it peer-to-peer.

3. Where do these "no fixed servers" come from? Do they magically appear out of nowhere? No. They are some servers that people set up as servers, so this means that:

3.1. If Skype were to retain its peer-to-peer architecture, it would rely on Skype users to be knowledgeable enough to set up their servers (and to turn off peer-to-peer capability in the event of poor machines and unreliable networks).

3.2. The servers by necessity would have to be on desktop computers. Even in 2011 it was apparent that the desktop traffic was rapidly declining, as more and more people were switching to/using mobile. It means Skype would have to route more and more traffic through fewer and fewer nodes. Oh, and yes, those nodes would also see their data plans drain (as not everyone in the world is on unlimited plans). Or — surprise! — set up its own servers, which it did.

3.3. On top of that Skype was en route to ditching peer-to-peer even before MS acquisition, as peer-to-peer architecture had been the primary cause of at least two major (unpredictable and uncontrollable) outages that could easily be avoided with a centralised setup.


You're aware that in the original Skype peer to peer network, there already existed supernodes that performed most of the heavy lifting that you could opt out of being promoted to, right?


Honestly, it's like talking to a wall.

Original Skype network existed in a world where mobile wasn't a thing.

Original Skype network went down twice exactly because of its architecture.

Original Skype network was already on its way out for the reasons I described several times above.

But sure, keep on believing that peer-to-peer can work in a mobile-first world.


Why can you not have a peer-to-peer Skype that works on the web?


WebRTC didn't exist at the time.


I know people that work on the Skype team. They don't write unit tests for example, "because we sell code not tests". So maybe that gives a clue.


Man, if ever there was an example that justified requiring professional accreditation for commercial programmers...


Based on recent Linux updates (but not the most recent, it's become unusable for contacting family) I think they let each new intern remove a feature.


I don't consider removing superfluous features a bad thing as long as the core features are working flawlessly.

EDIT: Apparently they removed really useful features which is a bad development.


They removed the superfluous "detect/connect microphone" feature.

Update: Wow so many upvotes, someone should create a webrtc startup.


:-) ... We're a WebRTC startup - https://daily.co - completely free WebRTC calls in Chrome, up to 50 participants in a call, free dial-in numbers in 25+ countries. Meeting recording coming later this month. Edge and Safari support soon.


"Sign in with Google" sorry you lost me right there.

Also tried 'Just click' but no demo opened.


your superfluous is my essential.

one thing is to start small, the other one to remove for the sake of removing


The Windows 10 version removed microphone volume control. You would think that this is a core feature for Skype, but apparently not. To make matters even worse, Skype now not only automatically chooses the microphone volume but also changes the global Windows mic volume. Which means that I have to reconfigure the mic volume after every call I make with Skype, because otherwise the volume is all messed up in every other app. It really boggles my mind.


For the usability/design side, I've seen this happen when you have designers/product manager attached full time to a product that aren't needed. The product is fine but now they have to justify their role ongoing so keep making updates that are simply not needed. Or a new designer is hired and they cant agree the last guy did a great job and do a couple of small tweaks. Because you cant justify a role for a year on that. They have to 'improve it'.


>Having done absolutely nothing would have left Skype in a better shape

You don't get a promotion for doing nothing. Doing something, on the other hand, might just work.


They switched from P2P to a hosted model because suddenly CGNATs showed up everywhere on the internet with no way through them.


There's widespread speculation that they moved away from P2P because it made it harder for the NSA to wiretap, which the NSA gained the ability to do right before the acquisition[0].

Keep in mind I did say speculation, but the NSA definitely seems to have gained increase ease at wiretapping Skype in early 2011 which is also when Microsoft was negotiating/purchasing Skype.

From [0]:

> "Sustained Skype collection began in Feb 2011," reads a National Security Agency (NSA) training document

Which is within two months of when Microsoft publicly announced acquisition.

[0] http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/inside-the-nsa-s...


Direct connections for audio or video calls are a patented ‘invention’ that is why the major vendors like Microsoft and also Apple changed to server based communication.


There were a number of patent trolls that tried to milk this but if I could resist them then certainly so could the likes of Microsoft. This is definitely not the reason for the switch. See also: https://jacquesmattheij.com/my-brush-with-a-patent-troll


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/VirnetX#Patents

Unlike these big companies you probably don’t stand to lose half a billion dollar. You’re just going to go bankrupt.


Note they settled for < $.1 / user and Skype kept happily rolling along.


$0.10 per non paying user is a lot of money and you don’t know what the rest of the terms were. Apple on the other hand chose the strategy you are advocating and they already lost over $400000000 and probably a ton of legal costs.


Check how much MS paid for Skype.


Good grief. Direct connect audio calls were invented over a century ago. It was called the "telephone"

Switched calls were invented decades ago.

How can a patent still be valid?


"X, but on a computer" was a popular way of getting new patents which generally worked in the US until the Alice Corp Supreme Court decision of 2014.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Corp._v._CLS_Bank_Inte...


The primary reason was the world switching primarily to mobile. You can't run peer-to-peer networks (that include audio and video) off of mobile phones and mobile networks.


Skype was excellent at traversing all kinds of firewalls, in fact that made them the market leader.


This. You could spend days setting up port forwarding and tunneling for some game, but you could always be sure Skype will find some loophole and just work out of the box.


And UDP hole-punching has actually gotten much easier. It's baked into the collection of specs that make up WebRTC now, for example. https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5389

Mobile networks often don't allow UDP hole punching, and for users behind corporate firewalls, NAT is impossible. But the standards support for "try p2p, then fall back to lightweight relaying of media, then fall back to tunneling inside HTTPS" are really good, now.

So I don't really buy that Microsoft switched to centralized media relaying because of changes in deployed network architecture.

Possibly the goal is to eventually unify how Skype for Business and "consumer" Skype work. If you are selling a communications tool to enterprise customers, it does make sense to move away from p2p, because enterprise networks are generally locked down in ways that might make the decision to just skip even trying to support p2p defensible.

Or maybe it's the lure of building features you can only do on media servers (compositing, various kinds of content analysis including inserting Cortana hooks into every call, etc).

Or maybe the speculations about government pressure are correct.


Is that really true? My understanding is most CGNs are full-cone, and keep the same external IP+port for the same source IP+port combo for the duration of the mapping. Thus, you can use a STUN server to establish a direct connection.

Certainly my ISP works in this manner, but I can't find much data about industry trends.


This is our experience running a WebRTC-based service that tries hard to do peer-to-peer when possible. It's usually possible, except for people behind enterprise (big company) firewalls.

But there is a big exception -- mobile networks. Mobile data networks don't allow udp hold punching. You have to relay the media.


Nope cgnat can be defeated too, also ipv6.


Wouldn't a central proxy service as fallback be enough then?


They used to do this. Now, WebRTC supports it in a standardized way, which has created a long list of competing services. :-)


https://www.lifewire.com/skype-changes-from-p2p-3426522

Cooperate customers (and secret service) demanded it- but it turned out to be a quality of call death spiral.


This is a direct consequence of Skype going from a peer-to-peer model where the servers were just used during call set-up to a far more centralized model.

I stopped using Skype shortly after Microsoft acquired it and started streaming all calls through their DC, I could see no other reason than surveillance for it.


It's actually the other way around. "SuperNodes" (elective service as a kind of hub) caused lots of dropped calls and flaky connections because people were trying to do it on bad home connections.

Microsoft switched to centralized servers to _increase_ call quality.


Well, that may have been their reason but I had excellent service on Skype prior to the acquisition super nodes and all and absolutely rotten service afterwards.

So whatever they tried to fix it didn't work. Of course this is all from a European perspective and the broadband situation here could not be compared to the US at the time (and in some places still can't).


From a US perspective, quality ranged from fantastic to awful to non-existent depending on who started a call. If you learned who had the best hosting, then always had them start it, you would be fine.

I gather my experience is not an outlier, which is probably why they switched.


That's what their public relations department says.

We don't have the full data, and seeing past behavior, it is completely possible they have second intentions with the change. We just can't rule out that possibly because of a press release.


My experience with it was the switch to centralize significantly dropped quality and reliability, and my family ditched it alltogether about 6 months after.


I can understand this rationale technically, when I was using skype (at work) ~8years ago we would have some real problems and a lot of it was attributed to "SuperNodes" if you dug deep down far enough. Chat and group chats at the time, though, were very reasonable

Whether that improved quality or not, I wouldn't know, I haven't used skype in quite some time.


>> Microsoft switched to centralized servers to _increase_ call quality.

Or to better address their CALEA requirements. It was about surveillance. It still is. The number of telephony decisions that are based on "security" boggles the mind.

Why did Skype fail? Because I wouldn't trust Microsoft to protect my grocery list.


First eBay was encouraged to buy Skype. But they messed up and only bought the brand and users and didn't get the p2p backend which was still licensed from the European inventors. So then Microsoft was encouraged to buy Skype and they bought the p2p code as well and promptly put a stop to all the excellent end-to-end encrypted public communications going through Skype.

That was the end of Skype. And it's obvious who did the encouraging.


How is peer-to-Internet--peer worse connectivity than peer-to-DC-to-peer for UDP streaming?

The peers aren't moving themselves to the DC to sit on their calls.


When both users are behind a firewall, in some cases the Skype connection was peer-to-supernode-to-peer, not straight peer-to-peer. Replacing a supernode, which could have been a user on a mediocre DSL connection, with a server in a datacenter with good connectivity _should_ improve call quality.


Yes, but if they had implemented that as a fall-back after a problem was detected I doubt anybody would have had a problem with it. Instead they routed all the traffic through their DC and for a very large number of calls that meant more hops and at least one extra latency incurring handler of the packet stream. So even if in some edge cases it was a win for a large number of calls it was a net loss.


IMHO this is exactly right. VOIP is actually super hard unless you have extremely good equipment because any latency can trip up things like echo cancellation. On top of that, you have to consider that this equipment (and its bandwidth) that is doing nothing but carrying traffic is seen to be a cost centre by organisations. Most VOIP calls result in practically no revenue. The bean counters will make decisions without understanding the impact to the service.

This was always the big advantage of Skype. Yes, supernodes are problematic (and IMHO, unethical), but on average they will work better than carrying all the traffic. When I used to work at Nortel in the 90's (now defunct telecom equipment manufacturer), I always wondered about VOIP because I knew how much trouble we had with traffic and we had circuit switched networks! Later when I worked for some VOIP startups, I could see the problems first hand.

FWIW, for voice, Mumble is still the gold standard IMHO. It's a pain to set up, but once you do, it will work extremely well. I keep threatening to build an open source VOIP system (not based on SIP, and requiring users to open ports by hand) because it's really not that hard. I've built one before for a startup from the ground up in a matter of months, by myself. Maybe one of these days...


How will peer-to-peer internet work with mobile devices? Well, it won't: users don't .want their data plans and batteries drained.


I don't think peer-to-peer means what you think it means. It definitely does not mean more data or empty batteries.


Wikipedia definition:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or workloads between peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application. They are said to form a peer-to-peer network of nodes.

Peers make a portion of their resources, such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth, directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination by servers or stable hosts

====

How would you imagine a mobile device sharing its network bandwidth and processing power without sacrificing data and battery?


Super nodes where added to mitigate the problem of battery consumption in Skype mobile apps. They explained this a long time ago.


Then why did quality drop so much?


[flagged]


For the uninitiated: linking from HN to JWZ's blog has a slightly different effect than what you expect.


The effect works by showing a NSFW image if the referer is detected to be HN.

To avoid the effect, you need to open links to jwz.org in a private window.


This link might work slightly better for some people: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.jwz.org%2Fd...


jwz.org links are banned at HackerNews. Please remove.


> are banned

what's the story behind that? (i'm not familiar with that domain.)


JWZ is not a fan of being linked to by HN.

JWZ redirects referrals from HN to an obscene image.


Just for that, I'm going to port xscreensaver to Windows.


I was disappointed, no obscene image when I clicked on the link. Using Firefox for Android, if it matters.


This right here. Skype used to have amazing call experiences, then they screwed it all up. Discord atm is more reliable than Skype, but who the hell is going to use Discord under a business environment sadly?


Game developers. We use Telegram for work communication, but required to be logged in our game's Discord community during the day to reply an occasional bug report and generally engage with the community.


Agree. It reminds me of Microsoft's defense of Windows 8, "people are just struggling to adjust to something that's new". Whereas internally they were aware that their UX sucked, the OEM all told them the UX sucked, and they fired the head of the Windows division.


Firing the head of the Windows division came late in the game. From what I’ve heard, critizing the UX was a great way to ruin your annual performance reviews (and get fired).


It's going to be hard to find the exact episode but I remember an episode of dotnetrocks where Carl & Richard (who are reasonably close to Microsoft and aren't really anti-msft) mentioned that when Sinofsky walked up the stage to announced Windows 8 he had already been told he would be asked to go.


I was there at the time (on an app team) The people behind the new UI really thought it was right and everyone else just hadn't got it yet.


> Microsoft has refocused the online calling service on the corporate market

It's also patently incorrect. Skype for Business (formerly Lync) is a completely different product and protocol than Skype - it is one of the few implementations of SIMPLE[1] (plus proprietary extensions), where Skype proper is completely proprietary.

> This is absolutely not the bulk of the problem

Agreed, I'm not sure if it is because SIMPLE (which is anything but) was used or because it is coded poorly, but Skype for Business is unusable. Teams supposedly uses the same infrastructure, which is why we still use G2M for conference calls.

[1]: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6914


> Modus operandi in most Skype conference calls in our company is to spend the first 4-5 minutes in handshaking ("can you hear me") and troubleshooting problems.

But of course doing this in no way guarantees lack of problems later. Almost every time I use Skype at some point in the middle of the call one caller is suddenly unable to hear the other.


What is so funny about this, is that they already have a solution for the corporate market - it's called Teams !!!

The ability for MSFT to reinvent the wheel is astounding. We use Teams at work, and had installed Skype for about 2 weeks before it got so annoying that we deleted Skype.

Now, we're looking to replace Teams with RIOT, once the software gets a little better. By my guess, that will probably be early next year.

The impetus to change is driven by the mindless complexity that MSFT products add to the office 365 stack. Every time we add an app, a new group gets created. Now we have so many groups, I am afraid of deleting them, as documents might be attached.

I still don't know what all Skype did for the brief two weeks we had it, but it's gone now!


Honestly, at least from my experience, 4-5 minutes is lucky. What I see is more like 15 minutes, regardless of the technology. Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, it's all confusing and hard to use for non-tech participants who aren't experienced with it.


> the call quality is horrendous and dropping calls in the middle of the meeting is quite common.

And yet, it's better than everything else I've tried. My team uses slack screen share every day and nearly every day we need to switch to skype for other team members to see the screen share.


You compare it to slack, of all things?


What am I supposed to be comparing it to? Something I don't use on a daily basis?


We'd really love for you to try our startup's WebRTC calls + screen-sharing + dial-in application. Free video calls and telephone dial-in. We work really hard on call quality, reliability, and UX, building on top of the (increasingly good) core WebRTC spec/implementation available in Chrome. (And other browsers are coming along, too.)

https://www.daily.co/

We hugely value feedback about quality and reliability, especially from folks who have issues with everything else they've tried.


Sorry, it was a dig at slack - not you.


Exactly this. Microsoft took something that worked almost all the time and turned it into a technical nightmare. I've spent hours trying to fix it for myself, both normal Skype and Skype for Business, and for my sister who has been trying to use it to reduce the amount she needs to travel to London for board meetings because they have much better things to do with their non-profit's budget than travel expenses and it's 2018.

Turns out in 2018 it's still easier to get on a train and meet up in a stuffy room somewhere than to use Skype or Hangouts to have a meeting.


I havent had a sound or conection issue in Skype in many years (10?) despite using it for international calls several times per day, both 1-1 and group, both voice and video. It’s possible that it just isn’t tolerant to intermittent network problems and I just don’t have any. Not sure.

It’s horrible in most other ways (autocorrect, emoji, ads, installation, limited group size for screen sharing, ...) but calls are really the one thing that works 100%

Edit: I’m talking about Skype proper, not Lync, the product Microsoft later dubbed “Skype for business”.


It takes a few minutes to handshake each users connection with the NSA to be recorded. Call quality was better when it was peer to peer and not routed through a Central Intelligence Agency.


If that's the nail in the coffin then why is skype still popular? The voice/video/screen share performance is consistently always bad, to the level of unusable.


Same reason people are on LinkedIn, FB, etc. I don't switch because all the people in my call list are on Skype. Also, I don't have any smartphone, only PC and laptop, so I don't even know or care what kind of apps for iOS or Android there are. ON teh PC I have to use "Skype Classic", which MS would like to get rid of (default download is the app for Windows 10). That app is unusable, and I'm tempted to add "literally" for emphasis but I'll wait until this new meaning of this word is (even) more established and the original one more forgotten :-) For example, in the app I can't even control my online status unless I keep the app open, while old Desktop-Skype lets me choose the status and I can close the window but the service remains available through the taskbar icon. I'm also unable to see a list of my contacts filtered by who is online in the app, which I consider to be as basic as it gets.


"I'm also unable to see a list of my contacts filtered by who is online in the app, which I consider to be as basic as it gets."

It still boggles my mind that someone thought this is a good thing to do.

I read on a KB on MS site when I was trying to figure out how to change that, and it said to see if someone is online send them a message first. I'm paraphrasing of course, but I couldn't believe that that was coming from MS about something so simple as trying to figure out who is online.


I was gently ribbing my friends about their woes and complaints with Skype over the past few years (one in particular had repeated bouts of skype throwing up ads _with audio_) and commenting that my Mac client was just as usable as it's always been.

Alas that that's no longer the case, we've moved all our casual chat (and voice, and video, and screenshare) to Discord and haven't looked back.


I left Skype for Hangouts as soon as they started putting autoplaying ads with audio in my calls. You have to be completely disconnected from the needs of your users to even consider doing such a thing.


"Skype for Business" is not Skype, it is a re-brand of the Messenger tool they already had. It is super obvious once you start dealing with the API.


Call quality? How about the fact that _chat_ doesn't work now? How badly do you have to screw up to lose chat messages constantly?


Yes, but why do you think that this is not related? I'd say call quality and usability of a call service are strongly related.


I recently moved to Skype from Hangouts and Skype's call quality is miles better, we've barely had a dropped call (that isn't caused by a cat who likes to sit on the keyboard) and overall I'm incredibly impressed.

The only annoying thing is that web.skype.com doesn't work in Firefox.


Lol, I had an issue like this Skyping with one person in particular. For some reason, after exactly 5 minutes and 10 seconds, the call dropped. Every single time we called each other.

I use google meet now and it’s way better.


I had a call that (asymmetrically) crashed every 15min. I eventually figured out that was when they rotated the ads.


> refocused the online calling service on the corporate market

HA! As if. I don't know anyone who uses Skype for Business who doesn't hate something about it with a vengeance.


To be fair, we do that same “handshake” with google hangouts.


Our solution was to switch to Discord for our remote meetings, which is a VoIP app targeted at gamers. Works flawlessly once you tweak the auto-ducking settings.


Desktop skype has also enabled a sound volume limiter or background filter that's awful and for that reason alone we still use an older skype version.


No wonder people are using Discord for corporate calls. And I find it humorous that Discord is imploring people to not use it for corporate stuff.


The new electron-based UI is super shitty too. Thank god I still can use the old native app on the Mac for now.


I bet one hundred dollars that if I tried to login to my old Skype account right now, it would take an hour to figure out how the fuck to reset my password, because"Microsoft account" bullshit.

I bet it would take me three hours to make a new account, for the same reason.

Try making an account for Microsoft's iot cloud thing. Good luck.

Edit: https://youtu.be/lfby-SOWWqQ

So, holy shit, somehow it auto populated maybe using Google smart Lock, and logged me straight in... To an account I don't remember ever creating. No contacts or anything so it's not my old legacy account. Lemme see about logging in on my old one

Edit2: guess it's time for me to eat my own words. I definitely remember this being an absolute nightmare. Turns out the hardest part was accessing my decade and a half old Yahoo account https://youtu.be/QVLz08OiMGk all my old contacts are lost though :( bye bye old WoW guildmates

I do maintain that the iot site is garbage and I still can't log in or create an account on it.


So are you going to donate that $100 to charity?


Yea when my last paycheck of the month comes in I'll donate a hundred more than normal, probably to rancho San Antonios little farm thing.


Speaking of lost bets: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6703467

I just lost a 5-year bet for $10 to Keyframe (https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=Keyframe)

It would be mildly interesting to have an HN-bets type service, with the proceeds going to charity.


This website is not very active, but it does what you want : http://longbets.org/


This is a job for .... <insert fanfare> .... blockchain!


I thought I was the only one suffering with this!


Same here! I even saved my password in KeePass only to find I still can't login!


When I started reading this I assumed when you said old account that you were after your contacts, not some vanity url.

From that standpoint you didn’t really get what you were after, despite the process not being as painful as you anticipated. So maybe you didn’t make your point, but you made a point.


I just had this yesterday. Tried to log in, password forgotten, so went through password reset.

Logged in with new password ‘suspicious activity’ (my failed logins before reset) ‘you now must reset your password.’ WTF, I just did minutes ago!


The microsoft account page has greatly improved over the years... if its been that long since you skyped your guild mates what would that have anything to do with anything?


At least some of their other stuff is a nightmare. I still haven't figured out how to use their oauth correctly, or use their iot stuff at all.


Um.. I'm not sure the article author is familiar with the fact that "Skype for business" (the "complex" one) is actually home grown and was just rebranded from Lync. This is not at all the same as the consumer Skype, which actually tries to be a weird mixup between Snapchat and whatnot at the moment (failing utterly of course). Skype for Business (+ PSTN calling) is actually pretty great on Office 365 tbh...


I work at a large corporation where we use Skype For Business and I swear, this is probably the worst piece of software I have ever used. They can't get basic things right - I can send a message to my coworker right now, and it will appear in the list of messages on his machine somewhere in between past messages. For a while, we had someone who couldn't receive any attachments, skype would just say "failed sending" - we had an actual Level 3 tech support from MS remote over to his machine to find out the issue, it was some broken registry settings. Selecting and copying text is a lottery - sometimes it will copy exactly what you highlighted, sometimes it won't - which is bizzare for an IM program. And then there's the conferencing, oh my god the conferencing. If you are in a conference room and someone left another account logged in with skype open, then no other user on that pc can make/receive calls - the only way to fix it is to restart the machine. I honestly can't believe we're paying money for this thing.


Skype for Business is actually being deprecated and replaced with Microsoft Teams[0].

Microsoft Teams is impressive that it actually manages to have a worse desktop client than Skype for Business, and the web site is barely any better. If people on O365 haven't used it, they should since Microsoft will force it on you sooner or later.

It is like Microsoft wanted to clone a bunch of popular services (e.g. Slack) and just mashed them all together without a care in the world, and to top it off had to make a bad UWP desktop application that needed touch support so they cut 90% of common features to fit in enough voidspace into the UI for touch.

[0] https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/faq-journey


I feel compelled reiterate to the world how astonishingly bad Teams is. We've been using it since its release and some days I'm convinced that there must be some internal management issue causing employees to deliberately sabotage the product.


Honestly I've found Teams to be preferential to Skype. The Screen Share features works heads over heels better than Skypes. Though It'd be 10x better with the standard Unicode Emoji set and having URLs to Online Meeting's like Skype.


It's fine. If they made it a lot faster it would be decent.


Actually, I forgot about attachments and sharing. Those are not great either.


I agree completely with your assessment. I used to gripe about SfB, but Teams is hilariously bad. Off the top of my head:

   -200MB minimum memory usage whether you use the desktop app or in a browser. Usually much more

   -Animated GIFs animate FOREVER with no way to turn them off, except by turning them off for everyone in your entire organization

   -Attachments fail constantly

   -Randomly takes over your SfB chats/calls

   -Can't have more than 19 people in a chat channel at once

   -Bots only work in the unintuitive, threaded "Teams" part that no one seems to grok, not the chat part that everyone actually uses
However I do like the ability to add random onenotes etc to channels, and to be fair it has been getting better, albeit slowly


Teams does something much better than SfB. It keeps IMs in sync between clients and devices. If I reply to an IM on my phone in SfB it stays on my phone. There's no way to get that conversation history onto my desktop client. Teams acts like you would expect and all clients get all the history.


Yes SfB's biggest problem is that it has skype in the name so people try to use it as an instant messenger.

It's ok for audio/video, but an abomination for instant messages - almost spitefully bad for text based communication due to the way it randomly redirects messages within a conversation to e.g. Outlook.


Add to that "crappy search" and "scrolling back through history results in long delays during which the entire display is blanked".


- Has their own poorly written markdown-WYSIWYG hibrid thing that often puts what i'm writing into some state where I need to clear out the whole message and start over.

- Butchers 2-factor auth on mobile and often puts you into a neverending authentication loop (sending tens of text messages if your second factor is setup like that)

- notifications that never clear unless you click on the channel, scroll to the "unread" message, and wait for a few seconds.


It is like Microsoft wanted to clone a bunch of popular services (e.g. Slack) and just mashed them all together without a care in the world

The LinkedIn Model.


I can not agree with you more. Skype for business has is an unmitigated disaster of a piece of software and whatever team is in charge of it needs to be fired or relocated so that Microsoft can start over on it.

Skype for business is so insultingly bad that it is pretty much the only piece of widely used software that I am willing to claim that given a month I could write something far better.


Somehow it is WORSE than Microsoft Office communicator we used to use at my company.


Agreed. I've worked at two places now that have undergone the switch and it was worse in both cases. Not only the software being worse than its 2007 predecessor, but the upgrade itself broke all sorts of internal tools and functionality, thanks to unnecessary changes to the registry and SFB's desire to put add-ins in everything (IE, Outlook, Firefox, etc).


I believe they have stopped putting much effort into Skype for Business and are hoping to move everyone to Teams ASAP.


I have heard this before, but it doesn't explain why it was ever released without features such as, I don't know, WORKING CONVERSATION HISTORY!


Skype used to have working conversation history. It's one of the features which was removed.


Oh, agreed, it is nearly useless.


Yea, based on our experience with SfB I'm frankly a little gobsmacked there are any enterprise clients with an overwhelmingly positive take on their experience.

I mean, they tout GE, a company in the middle of an incredibly well documented and historically expensive failure of a transition to a "digital" company. Probably not the best example. You'll have millions of minutes spent in Skype to wave around when getting everyone actually able to hear and participate takes several minutes on top of every meeting and call.

Right now we've got Slack, WebEx, and SfB. SfB is by far, the worst experience of the 3. Big meetings are on WebEx, and pretty much everyone uses Slack for ad-hoc stuff now. SfB is just too damned painful.

The program has awful UI/UX, calls rarely work, connectivity is a dice-roll most days, copy/paste(this is 2018, come on) is hilariously bad, viewing any kind of cohesive chat history is a disaster.

It's pretty bad when a recently added feature(calls) to an Electron-based chat app already provides a better UX vs. a multi-year incumbent created expressly for the same purpose.

Another comment summed it up pretty well: "enterprise" software has become synonymous with "stopped trying".


Don't even get me started on Webex. It's better than SfB sure, but only just. On Windows it will turn off cleartype whenever you do a screenshare, so whatever effort you were putting in to make something look good goes straight out of the window.


zooooooooooom


If you really want to torture yourself, try SfB on macOS. "Kafkaesque" is an apt term for all the truly bizarre ways it abuses you.

My favorite recent thing - I'll hang up a call and randomly SfB will spawn about a dozen call quality survey windows for every call I've recently completed.


In our company, the SfB on Mac users have an issue where login variably takes between 5 and 30 minutes.

Conferences are hilariously late because of this.

Also, Mac screen sharing usually crashes after a few minutes.

Sometimes calls get dropped and reconnnect just fails immediately with some weird error code until you sign out and delete all user data and log in again (waiting minutes).

Chat history disabled.

How we miss GotoMeeting...

If Slack conferences were better we’d all delete SfB ASAP.

No way in hell we would use Teams.

There was an option of Slack vs Teams and we had a huge stampede into Slack, but still have to use SfB because that’s the only way we can make phone calls since our physical phones were removed, and Slack conferencing options are limited.


> In our company, the SfB on Mac users have an issue where login variably takes between 5 and 30 minutes.

Don't worry, that's a cross-platform feature. I get it on Windows too.


We use dedicated accounts for our conf room PCs. You invite the room to the meeting, join from that PC. Works well and avoids the problem you mention. People don’t use personal accounts on conference room pc. Also using that program to ‘freeze’ known good config of pc and reboot nightly helps ensure it’s always working the next day regardless of what people mess up during the day.


It's amazing how things MS got wrong with Skype for Business. For something that had so much potential, that piece of software on Mac's is so ridiculously bad. It's a shame too, I'd definitely pay and be happy to be locked into a really nice softphone technology with corp IM/directory all in one.


Same here, Skype for Business is such a big overhead that people started to riot against it and we are going to replace it with something that works. "failed sending" is an every day issue, Mac client cannot record, mobile version drains battery like crazy, just to mention the top pain points.


They're pushing skype for business in my workplace as well (larger corporation). We've been using zoom and the IT department keeps telling us to stop, but skype for business just doesn't work well: high memory usage (seen on multiple machines taking 20gb+ before having to be killed), lack of features (e.g. video conference recording), instability, general flakiness of software. It is truly bizarre all of the problems given how long the software has been around. The only thing I can believe is microsoft is not putting the resources needed into it. They will fail unless they change that quickly. Us engineers will pay for zoom out of our own pockets before using skype for business.


You know how to take Skype FOR BUSINESS and make it even less useful? Prevent chat history, corporate-wide. You know, so we can't be forced to divulge the transcripts by a court. (As a Fortune-250, what do they have to hide?) Are there a lot of companies that share this practice? Did IBM release a white paper called "Chat History Deemed Harmful," and all Fortune 500 CIO's stroked their chins, nodded their heads, and contracted them to come turn it off? Or are we special?


Yeah, I got the latest "Unified" version now with Win10 and it takes more clicks to do the same things now.

Plus it keeps insisting on showing my profile photo over any new screenshare, and doesn't remember when I pop it out and minimize it. Buttons hide and show (but the background behind them is still opaque).


To be fair, if you just mess with the registry and corrupt it, you should expect weird problems.


Except that it wasn't anything we have done, and reinstalling the entire product multiple times didn't fix the issue.


Skype for Business client and server both seem to work pretty well. What I find annoying is Microsoft conflating the branding between two very different products, a rebadged enterprise communications product (formerly Lync) and a commercial-consumer product. So when someone says they want to make a Skype call with a client, what do they mean? Sometimes it's Skype for Business and sometimes it's plain old Skype. It costs everyone time and money when this isn't communicated clearly and one end of the call expects to use Skype and the other end Skype for Business.


Which does seem to be why Skype for Business is getting replaced with Teams, and why Teams is not Skype branded at all, it's just branded Microsoft Teams.


In theory it is possible to make calls from Skype for Business and Skype for Consumers. In practice the UI for that is quite horrible and I could never successfully connect a call.


I do not understand why a software company who has long made money in the enterprise with Office, SQL Server, etc cannot make an integrated chat program that works well in a corporate environment. This Lync Skype beast is so buggy and it doesn't even have code paste one tenth as decent as what Sametime had a decade ago, and MS makes TOOLS FOR DEVELOPERS! Do they not use Lync/Skype in-house? Dog-folding should make it better right away, unless MS employees just don't collaborate with each other?


Several years ago I worked with an ex-Microsofter who'd worked on the NT kernel and SQL Server. There were several times when I asked him why so-and-so was so awful, and his response was always that they didn't have the good people working on it, because they were all working on NT and SQL Server. My response was that as big as Microsoft is, they should have enough good people to go around.

Really, I'm convinced it's not the average engineers in the trenches who make the products so horrible, but management and marketing's influence over management that causes everything to be a trainwreck.


    Dog-folding
Microsoft Origami Club to the rescue!


i think that at this level, what ultimately matters is that a) "it's Microsoft" and b) can the MS sales person/marketing materials convince some manager to sign off.

business-wise, making things better is only worth pursuing insofar as it helps maintain or advance market position. hopefully they'll see it that way at some point.


They use it internally. It’s equally shitty, but it makes enough money no one cares.


Unless you're not using Windows, in which case it functionally doesn't exist. Seriously. I have never successfully connected a single call with it.

(Understood that the same criticism can be levelled at Facetime etc -- which I also don't use.)


> I have never successfully connected a single call with it.

I have (on mac), but then I have been treated to terrible call quality and an incredibly poor UI (half the time we need remote control, there is no option for it, for some reason).


I use Linux as my native OS at my current shop and thought "Well they use Skype for Business and there's a new Skype for Linux client" .. but nope. Just as stated in this thread, it's a totally different protocol that's part of their Lync product.

I ended up getting a license for Sky, a 3rd party commercial Skype for Business client for Linux. It's pretty decent for what it is, but I could have just installed a Windows VM, used VNC, shared the VNC session and gotten the same thing.


Used to be the case that if a mac or Linux user connected, the call quality degraded for everyone on the call. Don't know if improved...

http://blog.schertz.name/2016/06/skype-for-business-vbss-upd...


> but I could have just installed a Windows VM, used VNC, shared the VNC session and gotten the same thing

I'm pretty sure there would be a noticeable(couple of seconds) lag between both incoming & outgoing audio to the VM making smooth flowing conversation near to impossible.


At my old job I had this setup for WebEx. I did voice over a standard phone, so only video went over x11vnc -> vnc client in Windows VM -> WebEx. It worked pretty well; way better than Sky (Linux Skype for Business client) which is just laggy as hell.


On Linux Google Meet using Chrome is really good in my experience.


I used O365 and Skype for Business at my previous job, and we regularly fell back on consumer Skype with some of our remote developers (not that remote mind you, within Europe). Teams seemed to work better but was still very bare at the time.

Then we got new C-level executives from Cisco, and the first thing they did was to initiate a migration to Cisco solutions. Their offering is super confusing to end users like me (WebEx, Spark, Jabber, ?) but it works reliably, in my experience.


Yes, Lync's call quality is better. But in return chat is awful, screensharing sometimes simply doesn't work, and it seems Lync Windows and Lync Mac where developed with two unrelated communication protocols in mind. And updating it can kill your whole computer.


Really? I hate skype for business because I can't copy-paste any body of text to co-worker because it gives a dialog box saying "the message is too big to send".. I don't know a single IM app that does this. Apparently I'm in 1980s.


We switched to Gsuite. Hangouts Meet with an automatically provided dial-in phone number for those unable to join the meeting through data sercices works well.


Aside: I can't hear the name "Skype for Business" without thinking someone took a perfectly suitable chat client and attacked it with Kragle.


Explains why everyone at IU uses Zoom nowadays for conference calls plus Slack for daily convo instead of Skype.


We mostly switched to Zoom due the call quality.


Except it often doesnt work


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