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Tell HN: Skype on web does not support Firefox
280 points by gyosifov on Aug 28, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 163 comments
The Skype for web -> https://web.skype.com/ does not support Firefox. Urges the user to use Microsoft Edge or Chrome.

The worst is that just changing the user agent makes everything work.

Are we back to the "built for Netscape 4.7" days?

Sites shouldn't support browsers, but standards. By all means check if a browser supports a certain standard, and provide an error message for browsers that are too far behind, but don't ban them simply for having the wrong user agent.

I don't want to destroy your illusions, but so-called "web standards" have been "whatever Chrome does" for a while now. FF is great (I'm using it all the time, even on Android until very recently), but publishers have no incentive to test on FF specifically because of ad blockers eliminating all ads irrespective of whether they're targetted/tracking ads or regular ads. Actually, from a purely economical PoV, publishers would benefit in the short term from not supporting content on any other browser than Chrome. Of course, mid-term this will only play into the hands of Google. Actually, I wonder whether we've already past that point where we can prevent the web to become a Google ads channel. At which point "standards" (as understood by WHATWG) are a moot point anyway.

FF does not include ad blocking by default, you have download the necessary extensions just as you would on Chrome.

This means that you need some sort of comprehensive integration that tests all corner cases of features you use. You certainly can't rely on the browser vendors to implement every feature perfectly according to spec with no bugs. So you have to test it yourself. Most people test their app, see that it mostly works, and then declares the browser supported. That's why we get these things like "please use browser X"; it's what the developers checked the corner cases on.

Sure, that sounds reasonable but even my bank manages to just display a warning at the top which I can click away for the rest of the session. So when something like Skype or Slack just outright refuses to work, it's quite some nerve they've got there.

I think so. A solution to this might be to croudsource an extension which changes the User Agent on known good apps (where changing it just works but they've decided not to let you use it).

> known good apps

Correction: known bad apps (where changing it just works but they've decided not to let you use it).

I consider it very shameful behavior, sabotaging the internet.

Well I meant it as 'apps that work good' when changing the UA string.

But you are right.

I kinda got you, just think that they do not deserve the word "good" at this point :)

I feel like the endgame here is that everyone will just ship Electron apps. Then the web goes completely dark.

This is a nice sentiment but for actual products you end up having to say X versions of Y browsers are supported.

It ends up being a feature requested by customer support teams that you prevent the app from working on unsupported browsers because users don’t read banners or pop ups and it generates pointless tickets. If you make your users change their UA there’s an awareness that things might break.

'unsupported browsers' are browsers that are old or broken. FireFox is a perfectly good browser, it is current and should be supported.

It's not really about that -- most shops don't support the latest version of Opera or Brave except by accident since they're Chromium backed. If they introduced a breaking incompatbility there is very little chance we would carry patches for them.

'supported browsers' are browsers that you lose customers if you don't support. You don't lose customers by telling them to switch to Chrome. Firefox's market share is small and the number of people who exclusively use Firefox and refuse to switch is vanishingly small.

> 'supported browsers' are browsers that you lose customers if you don't support.

That's a great attitude towards your users. No, you, the vendor, adapt to what your users bring.

That is the standard that the web was built around. Lazy developers that only wish to cater to the one browser that they have on their desk and that refuse to recognize that the world is a bit larger than their minimal view (including screenreaders and other accessibility device) should get another job. And if the company they work at is run competently they will (Microsoft apparently is not one of those, but that's not really news either).

If a user brought you Lynx I'm pretty sure you wouldn't jump to support them. Whether Firefox deserves support by default is a question with a different answer at every company.

Twisting this into an absurd discussion does not give you the moral high ground, but fine, I'll bite.

If a browser is standards compliant it should be supported. Note that standards are there for a reason, they create a level playing field. So all you really need to do is to ensure that your implementation is conform the standard, you then still have to test to ensure that your assumptions hold in light of practical applications of that standard on the rendering side. But there really is absolutely no excuse why barring non-standard extensions your website would not work with all browsers with more than 1% market share.


Would be a good place to start for your compatibility testing.

Firefox is sitting at 8.3% quota in NA and dwindling. It's reasonable not to support it.

I can’t imagine making the case to anyone at my work that we can/should voluntarily stop supporting 8.3% of our audience.

- 8.3% average globally doesn't necessarily represent 8.3% of your users or market.

- 8.3% is almost much larger than the metric you actually care about -- the percentage of users that will not use Chrome (or your desired set of supported browsers).

Of course, I used that figure because it’s what the poster used. I looked up what it is for the product I work on and it’s actually only 4% — still an order of magnitude larger than it would need to be to consider not supporting it.

The desired set of supported browsers will always come down to metrics.

heck, we're supporting IE11 at great pains with ~4% audience

That number should grow again. It's becoming increasingly obvious what a privacy leak Chrome is, and Firefox is just as good, making it an obvious choice for anyone who cares about privacy.

Chrome attacking the privacy and the choice of its users has been happening for years now. And Firefox keeps dying.

Mozilla (Firefox) management thought that installing a Mr Robot advert extension on people's computers, without asking, was a good move, and defended it until the internet outcry got loud enough. With management like that, I find it hard to trust them. Default-installing Pocket was also not entirely defensible and was probably money-driven.

Essentially, both companies have done anti-privacy and untrustworthy actions, and choosing the lesser evil is hardly ideal.

The difference between Mozilla and Google is substantial. Whenever Mozilla gets this wrong it is usually a goof of sorts, when Google gets it wrong it tends to be policy. See 'AMP'.

Let's keep the numbers in perspective.

The 8,3% (or 9,52%, or whatever) of Firefox users is way, way beyond total Skype users. Firefox has about ~170M users, Skype 4,5M.

> You don't lose customers by telling them to switch to Chrome

Yes, you do. It might be a very, very small number, so small that you decide not to care about it, but you definitely lose people.

The tricky part is that most companies have no idea how many people they lose and why. It's just marketeers guessing and anecdotal evidence. The number is probably bigger than they think, because generally speaking, marketeers are not the type of persons that about browsers.

There has been so much loving praise of Microsoft on hn lately, while they would continue to use their same old tricks. A similar case is MS Teams, which won't enable audio or video on Firefox Linux without spoofing the ua as well.

This is especially insidious since so many companies are already locked into the MS ecosystem, users have no choice but to use edge or chrome and IT departments will start wondering why they would bother allowing the use of Firefox at all.

Agreed. This is shameful behavior, and we should call 'm out on this.

I always thought having a UA header in the HTTP spec was a bad idea, because it just encourages things like this.

Unfortunately, I've tried browsing with no UA header, and a surprisingly large number of sites --- even ones without any sort of "app functionality" --- will return strange errors.

Because it's such a rare corner case. I've been running my blog for 10+ years and apparently I've never seen a request without the UA header - until a post got to the front page of HN a while back and someone like you caused a bunch of "Use of uninitialized value" errors in my logs. It's fixed now.

Actually that's a really good idea to move things towards checking compatibility with standards rather than by user agent. The hard job would be forcing these broken sites to fix themselves.

UPDATE: the idea below of Safari not updating it's UA seems to be a good way to move this forward.

I was going to say "Great, so Chrome/X.X is going to be the new Mozilla/4.0" but then looked it up and apparently Chrome already reports itself as "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/74.0.3729.169 Safari/537.36" so what even is a user agent string for?

> what even is a user agent string for?

Tracking. Safari actually stopped updating its user agent for this reason.

Great resource, thanks for sharing!

That was brilliant, thanks!

As above, I was on the Skype for Web launch team.

While chat will probably work, as it doesn't have anything browser-specific, I am not sure video/audio calls will be reliable. Even if they work now, that flow is no longer tested or fixed if it breaks on Firefox. The downloadable video/audio plugin on Windows and Mac, supporting Firefox is the expensive part that the team likely stopped supporting.

So, I don't have this Skype plugin on firefox but changing the UA makes skype work? Presumably it's working now via WebRTC so I don't understand why they can't allow Firefox as well.

It's said often, but this is why I love HN - when the folks who actually work at these companies can provide insight.

Because what we are seeing certainly seems malicious - the idea that it can work by changing the user header looked, at least to me, as a swipe to Firefox, but instead, you're explaining that you simply couldn't guarantee support.

Now, it would be cool if you could simply just state that on the page, instead of simply saying it won't work - but I do understand the desire to not present something with potential issues to the general public.

Thanks for taking the time, here.

I was on the team who built this, five years ago. I left Microsoft about that time ago. I don't have information on how and why decisions are being made now.

Having worked at Microsoft though, if your team cannot guarantee that a feature works on a browser that uses some non-standard things, is a decision that product will make on how to proceed. Display a warning or just don't support? Perhaps there might be security issues in the future the company wants to avoid this way, knowing they could not patch it? And so on.

Beyond speculation, I don't have much more to offer.

People here aren't really asking for support. They are complaining that they are locked out. Specifically targeted. They get that an error might exist on an unsupported browser. What they are mad about is that they are explicitly locked out, and for seemingly no purpose.

So it’s just like the native Skype client.

Slack is guilty of this as well. They support Firefox obviously, but if you try to connect with a niche browser like Waterfox you get a great patronizing message about how it's for your own good and they only want to provide you the "best experience possible."

The best part is that the default Waterfox user-agent begins with an unmodified copy of the Firefox one (which is allowed), with " Waterfox/X.Y." appended to it.

It's not trivial though- I had to put open a tab in a container for it to recognize the new UA. Just changing and reloading didn't work.

Facebook "kind of" works in Firefox, but there's loads of subtle breakage: for example pasting anything in Messenger (with ctrl+v) breaks the entire site for me. Middle-click kind-of but kind-of-doesn't work, depending on planetary alignments or some such :-/

That's odd, and I'd be more inclined to blame a plugin than Firefox itself. I'm Firefox all day, every day, and my job revolves around Facebook, without that sort of issue.

I only have uBlock and disabling it makes no difference. It's been broken like this for at least ~6 months (possibly longer, but I don't use Facebook much).

What? I've been using Facebook in Firefox since IE6 stopped being cool, and it's always worked fine.

IE6 was cool?

(j/k - I do remember the years where it was actually alright, before it became the plague on the dev community it evolved into)

So you understand how long I've been using Firefox, then. :P

(And yeah, compared with Netscape 4, IE6 was great!)

The same happens to me in Chromium and Vivaldi - it looks like most (all?) currencies with postfix currency symbol are broken. Just press left arrow after entering a digit.

I will try it. Thanks.

Something's up with your install. I paste stuff in all the time without issue. I mean I paste a -lot- of memes and text with no issues.

Yeah, I've been doing the same thing. Although I only use it for text chatting in the browser. I don't know if video or audio calls work with it.

Video calls do work.

There is an extension, that will change the UA only for Skype: https://addons.mozilla.org/pl/firefox/addon/firefox-web-skyp...

There are plenty of extensions that will let you change the UA for any site; having yet another one with such a narrow function seems to me like those "we have a smartphone app too" whose only purpose is to open the browser to their site.

Just add this to your prefs.js/about:config

  user_pref("general.useragent.override.web.skype.com", "Mozilla/5.0 (Linux) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/70.0.3538.77 Safari/537.36");

But if it's your only use of such a thing, as it is for me, it's just one click away. You can also feel reasonably safe as the extension works only on Skype's web sites per Web Extension manifest.

Not completely. Pasting in chat crashes the site. The new twitter UI has the same problem, so it's probably something in React or whatever common DOM library they use.

You can expect to see more and more of this as most of the world converges on the Chromium browser base. There is very little incentive for these companies to test for Firefox. Device users have spoken. They do not bother to change the defaults that come with their devices (Chrome, Edge, Safari) and do not really care about the deeper aspects of privacy or control or FOSS. At most they care about blocking ads, which is not a compelling reason to switch.

Getting rid of ads IS a compelling reason to switch. People will switch if the default is better. They dont want to get a new browser, pick and install an ad blocker, then configure that stuff.

People will stop at the slightest uncertainty. I bet if there was a one-click to install firefox with ad-blocker and some other stuff enabled by default people would start switching.

Installing, extensions, configuration, those are sysadmin function, not stuff Joe public wants to do no matter how easy the developers think they are.

Firefox has tracking protection enabled by default. Given the current state of the ad ecosystem, this has the side effect of blocking most ads.


>I bet if there was a one-click to install firefox with ad-blocker and some other stuff enabled by default people would start switching.

Check out Brave, been getting my friends to switch as it has a built in blocker that is even more verbose than ublock. Works on mobile as well which helps them save data and load websites faster.


> has a built in blocker that is even more verbose than ublock

I don't understand this sentence. What does "more verbose" mean?

I guess what I meant was that it shows you a lot of details of what trackers are being blocked with individual switches for cookies/scripts etc, which is nice for users who may not be as tech literate.


Isn't this the same browser that by default allows through certain ads to fund its own development? Or that has replaced ads on web pages with its own approved ads?

They do allow you to opt in and get up to 5 ads per hour to receive a small amount of cryptocurrency BAT. This is optional however and you are not required to do this.

This happens in the background as you are browsing and it isn't like an ad that pops up or a video you have to watch. They don't interrupt your browsing experience is what I am getting at if you do opt in.

Which is based on Chromium, and therefore does nothing to help with the Google web monopoly.

It even has a built in 3 node "Tor" browsing for their private windows if you want.

Do you just mean standard Tor? I found an announcement saying it was a beta feature, if it's considered stable now that's great.

Also they do clarify because they are somewhat misleading. On the Tor splash page it states that you can hide your IP from ISP/Employer, however when you read the details about what Tor does they are correct by stating:

>If your employer administers your device they might also keep track of what you do with it. Using Private windows, even with Tor, probably won't stop them from knowing which sites you've visited. Someone else with access to your device could also have installed software which monitors your activity, and Brave can’t protect you from this either.

You are correct I shouldn't have put it in quotes.

They have a private window, or you can open up a tor private window by hitting shift+alt+N for a new tab with tor.

Info on what their Tor actually does.


Screenshot for posterity.


I never thought I'd see the day when Microsoft would support the Google monopoly... despite all the hate IE got, at least it was from a company whose primary source of profit wasn't online advertising. To see MS give up on IE, and then Edge, was very disappointing.

It was from a company whose primary source of profit is vendor lock-in. Poorly supporting or not supporting open standards is SOP for Microsoft.

Better than advertising and being anti-user. I've long realised that "open" anything doesn't really matter if it works against you. Example: Google trying to standardise how it hides URLs from the user (yes, really. https://url.spec.whatwg.org/#url-rendering ) There's also that whole commotion about including DRM in the HTML spec.

Lock-in is anti-user.

If you don't like Chrome/Edge, then switch to Firefox. Open standards give you have that freedom.

Unless, of course, you can't switch to Firefox because the set of people you need to work with are communicating using proprietary protocols, eg. Skype. Or developing software you need that only works on proprietary operating systems. Now you're locked in.

I remember people saying the same thing about IE6. “Internet Explorer will soon be 95% of the browser market, so there is no reason to develop for any other browser.” This was used to justify IE-only development, further boosting that browser’s share.

User apathy and developer laziness produces this self-reinforcing circle of platform lock-in.

Same was said 20 years ago about Internet Explorer.

Even the arguments and counter-arguments are the same as 20 years ago. Users don't really have a choice anymore, they are quite often being manipulated (forced) to install Chrome.

Just browse the web with Firefox and go to Google sites.

It's not even that it doesn't work on Firefox, it's that they're UA-filtering: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20818792

Don't give up. We are exactly the people who can change this.

The sad thing is that we've lived through all of this with Internet Explorer. I'd be willing to be that we will once more when Chrome stagnates and something bigger and better comes along...

I'd be willing to be that we will once more when Chrome stagnates and something bigger and better comes along...

IE was overtaken by FF at a time when there was less complexity in browsers and MS wasn't really into the sort of feature-racing that's happening today; Google has already achieved an effective monopoly-by-complexity with its control over web standards and constant churn and feature addition under that "push the web forward" excuse. It has used its resources to make a moving target and keep it moving, making it impossible for others to even try to catch up. MS tried with Edge and gave up.

I really don't like this, because unless the population manages to change its viewpoint completely and think "better" is not "bigger", I highly doubt Chrome will ever "stagnate".

> MS wasn't really into the sort of feature-racing that's happening today;

I agree with your post except for the bit quoted above. At that time Microsoft had already won the browser war and was then using that to lock people into Windows via ActiveX controls and such like. So there was feature-racing -- of sorts. It's just those features all lived outside of the web browser engine

Why would chromium stagnate? Everybody can improve it, even mozilla.

And that is truly disturbing, because it is not an implausible future where even Mozilla is finally compelled to rebase Firefox upon yet another Chromium fork, just to stay relevant with the fast-moving, extremely complex web ecosystem. Of course if their market share improves then they'll still be able to exercise relatively significant influence upon the Web's direction, but the big challenge in front of them is expanding their user base. They're in a kind of catch-22 situation I feel... it is going to be difficult to reclaim the slipping ground.

I wish this future for mozilla but I expect them to make that decision when it will be too late for them.

"Urges the user to use Microsoft Edge or Chrome."

Meaning "Chrome only" is the strategy here (since Edge, mshtml.dll, as unique rendering engine will disappear).

Welcome back to the past - have seen this all before in the late 90s.

Suddenly it's okay to develop for just one browser again. Even though browsers are lot more standardized now than they were before, it's still okay to do it. Bizarre.

LinkedIn too behaves strangely on Firefox/Ubuntu. Endless login loop, even if all add-ons are disabled. I'm surprised that such popular websites treat Firefox so poorly.

Firefox/Ubuntu user here (pro and home) with no issue on linkedin...

Fellow Firefox/Ubuntu user here. Are you blocking Captchas somehow? This is usually my problem (and specifically very recently with LinkedIn, hence the comment).

I don't think I have changed anything related to captchas, at least not intentionally.

I see a lot of "Request to access cookies or storage on https://www.linkedin.com/ was blocked because of custom cookie permission." in console.

However, my Preferences > Content Blocking is set to "Standard"; no add-ons are enabled; not a private window. I have DNS-over-HTTPS enabled. There are no linkedin-related entries in about:config.

The list of cookie exceptions (deny or allow) isn’t stored in about:config. Try these steps?


Have you got a Pi-Hole setup or some such? LinkedIn on FF/Ubuntu works fine for me at home, but I think I had to whitelist something on Pi-Hole admin console.

Don't have Pi-Hole. DNS-over-HTTPS is enabled.

Are you perhaps blocking third party cookies?

Since the console errors were about cookies, I checked under Cookie and Site Data. There are no disabled domains. LinkedIn domains show a few KBs of storage, which I assume means LinkedIn cookies are not being blocked.

Skype has been truly rubbish lately anyway. I generally use free whatsapp calls over my paid skype credits because it's such a stark quality difference.

No idea what they're doing but it's terrible.

Also, Skype for Business is being replaced with Microsoft Teams. Bold prediction : Skype has less than five years of life left.

As for Microsoft Teams, they claim video conferencing and desktop sharing is not supported in the browser on Linux, but spoofing the user agent enables them.

They also do not provide a standalone app for Linux, despite the fact it's an Electron app, yet here is the standalone client supported by one individual that works perfectly.


It really makes you think!

You wager they'll shut down the consumer facing portion too? It's a fairly decent brand. Although I guess with VoIP so ubiquitously free (WhatsApp, etc) I'm not sure how they monetize these days...

It's a well-known brand but Microsoft have dragged it through the mud since they acquired it and among those I know it now has a reputation for being extremely unreliable. They might want to retire it rather than fight to rehabilitate its image.

True, on second thought, I found myself saying let's Skype soon and end up using some other app during facetime...

Original Skype for Web developer here. I was part of the launch team who built the first version for this product in 2014[1]. Back then we supported Chrome, IE 9+, Safari and Firefox. Already we had internal debates to support Opera, but the decision was to focus on the largest browsers.

For each browser, we had to add support in our standalone plugin, that was (and still is) required to install for audio/video calls. There was a small maintenance cost per browser, which was a bigger one whenever changes to the plug-in were made.

I left Skype/Microsoft a long time ago and Microsoft announced in March they will drop support for Firefox[2]. I can only speculate, but it’s likely due to not wanting to pay the maintenance cost of this product on an ongoing basis.

Not directly related story from building Skype for Web: a big internal battle those days was us vs the Edge team. We wanted Edge to ship the Skype plugin as default, making calls seamless for Edge users, not needing to install a plugin (we saw large drops in adoption due to this plugin). Chrome already did exactly this with Hangouts back in the day and we saw it as them eating our lunch.

This was at the time of Steve Balmer’s Microsoft, where collaboration between different orgs was difficult and facing strong political headwind. We got nowhere with the Edge team, who wanted no dependencies and prioritised performance above anything like this - and also wanted to hit their own KPIs, which had nothing to do with Skype users preferring to use Edge.

We reasoned, pleaded, argued, steamed, shouted names and even used the "C" argument ("but... but... but... even Chrome does it!"). No avail. So a separate plugin install it was, giving people zero incentive to use a Microsoft browser for a Microsoft product. The Edge team were pleased they did not have to cater for another dependency and their roadmap remained unchanged. We were frustrated and had little doubt which brodwser will keep gaining market share - being certain it will not be IE/Edge.

Other not directly related story: a few years ago I wrote in detail my take on why Skype failed, here on HN. Read it on this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10927600

[1] https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp... [2] https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/03/microsofts-new-skype...

I appreciate the inside perspective on this, and the frustration is understandable from the pov of the Skype for Web team.

The Edge team made the right decision though from this user's perspective.

I want a browser, not a Microsoft utility dashboard.

Another vote against bloat here I'm afraid.

I’m not a Skype user or an Edge user so I don’t have a dog in this particular race but in general I can’t stand it when these “software barnacles” latch on and get bundled with the software I actually want.

We just had a similar article related to this kind of bloatware yesterday [1]. When you’re in a big company and your job performance is measured by something like “number of installs,” well by golly, you’re going to advocate for anything that juices that install rate. When you’re measured by “number of daily active users” you’re going to use notifications and spam to beg users to use it. And in the extreme case of your project being ignored by users and you need to justify it’s very existence, you’re going to pull out all the tricks and dark patterns you know, in order to force people to have/use it.

It’s a shame that success in software tends to me measured with these vanity metrics. It’s a big reason we have so much unwanted software that gets bundled with wanted software, and why so many apps beg you to use them.

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20803817

Also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20804737

Edge did the right thing. I can't stand it when a product comes bundled with a bunch of bloat that I'll never use.

How about a 1-click install on first use?

> no dependencies and prioritised performance above anything

Edge was in a weird position where it somehow looked fast but felt sluggish. A real shame it didn't work out though.

It was sluggish and hung for no reason. It was super bare boned and still slow. So, if I installed the same number of extensions as I have on Firefox, it would grind to a halt. I guess that's what we get when they prioritize looks or design over functionality.

The most annoying part for me was updates. They supposedly created Edge as a browser decoupled from the OS unlike Internet Explorer. They claimed that with Edge, they would be able to iterate quickly with regular updates - like Chrome.

Yet, for 4 years, updating edge required a major OS update AFAIK.

It felt sluggish because they were forced to use the Metro UI toolkit. Had they used Win32, it would have blown Firefox and maybe Chrome out of the water.

>> For each browser, we had to add support in our standalone plugin, that was (and still is) required to install for audio/video calls

Wait Chrome doesn't need it right? I think the issue here is a codec no?

There's even people that have hangouts working in pidgin because it just uses webrtc.

I was trying to debug potential webrtc issues with skype web for pidgin.

It's one thing to say we wanted to do this and that but I don't see you guys reaching out to browsers upstream at all to work on a solution that doesn't need a plug-in.

Personally nowadays I just recommend everyone not to use Skype and many of my friends do the same despite being what we all used to use first.

I enjoyed using Skype for a short period - when Microsoft integrated it with the SMS app on Windows Phone. Notifications delivered timely, chatting was a breeze - none of the processor, & ram heavy lag Skype's known for.

After they broke that, I went back to the normal skype.

I stopped using Skype because it framed me and my pals as assholes. I'd send messages and it wouldn't deliver but make me think it did. I'd then think the other person was ignoring me.

It'd say I'm online with both my PC and phone disconnected from the internet. So people would chat me up and I'd not reply for hours or days. And I'd have to start explaining and giving live demos to prove that Skype's playing tricks.

I'd send a message but the recipient will see "your client version cannot handle this message" or some other cryptic message.

I feel like Facebook paid Skype to intentionally frustrate from their service. They keep working hard to push users away.

Same experience here. My friends and I for the past 10+ years have tried to avoid Skype wherever possible and generally barely used it unless other forms of videoconferencing failed us too. It's almost a running joke with us that any attempt to use Skype will only result in frustration and disappointment, and all calls are prefaced with a standard "hold on, Skype is fucking up, give me a few minutes."

Along with Gchat it's just one of the ultimate digital product failures of our time. What should have been miles ahead of any competitor and cornered the market, instead became something users vehemently hated.

Is it true that Microsoft revamped Skype in order to comply with law enforcement wiretaps and log everything for subpeonas?

Skype was non-reliable by 2013 due to P2P. Messages were not being delivered reliably. All our competitors were using a centraised-server model, the biggest threat being WhatsApp at the time.

So we kicked off the same effort before Microsoft bought Skype. The effort them took a LOT longer due to the merger. It finished a few years after the acquisition. Without MS acquiring, we would have gotten it done much faster.

Somehow the internet got this idea “Skype is going centralised to allow wiretapping, because of Microsoft”. We did it as we were fighting to be functional/somewhat reliable, with (chat) messaging becoming so big. I have a longer version in a comment[1] from a few years ago.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10927600

So you mean the change in their model (some years back) from P2P to via-their-servers?

Having ZERO trust to Microsoft's ethics, and with the dark history of leaving things unpatched for 3-letter agencies to go berserk, it makes that theory semi-valid. I am sure that Microsoft will neither xobrifm, nor deny this allegation ;)

Edit: every time I see something massive breaking in the news about system vulnerabilities that existed 2-5-10 years, it makes me think that NSA/CIA/USA lost control of the tool/vulnerability, and they run to patch before other state agents get the chance to equally abuse that.

> For each browser, we had to add support in our standalone plugin, that was (and still is) required to install for audio/video calls.

Is this true? What kind of plugin are we talking about? I believe both Chrome and Firefox deprecated NPAPI, with only Firefox still supporting the Flash NPAPI plugin for a year or so? Is this a pepper plugin?

From talking to MS devs at conferences it feels like Skype is internally considered a dead end these days. Skype for Business (i.e. Lync) is already being replaced with Microsoft Teams.

I'm not sure if MS is actually planning to replace Skype with anything or to just keep it around until nobody uses it anymore but all the recent updates felt rather half-hearted. It's still used for video calls in the consumer space apparently but I would guess that's an aging demographic as most kids and young adults seem to be using various mobile apps instead.

In other news, you don’t need plugins to provide voice or video calls in a browser. You do have to make a real web version though.

I gave up on Skype a long long time ago. Aside from the dumpster fires of their clients, their attempts to manage the spam/bot problem make legitimate use nearly impossible because they keep disabling "new, lightly used" accounts.

Instead of switching the browser. I switch the app. In this example I stopped using skype. Whoever wanted to contact me on skype, I simply say that I don't have an account there. Let's meet somewhere else.

Jitsi Meet supports Firefox.


Looks cool. How does jitsi make money?

Last time I used Jitsi about 4 months ago it brought my FX-9370 w/64GB RAM to a crawl.

Have they fixed their absolutely horrid web client?

Tweeted them about this, their response: "Request/vote for this feature on our community site", with the following link: https://skype.uservoice.com/forums/914527-welcome-to-skype-i...

I don't know what "Preview" is but it sounds more specific than supporting Skype for Web in Firefox overall. There are a number of other UserVoice ideas about Firefox support. Microsoft should consolidate the ones that are essentially saying the same thing.


Also not supported in Safari. That's fine, I wasn't going to use Skype anyway.

That’s a larger problem since Safari has a larger userbase. Mozilla is generally at 5% Safari has been at 7-8%. Collectively, Microsoft is fine with losing potentially 12%

On desktops, it is ~9,5% for Firefox and ~5% for Safari (4,5% for Edge). On mobile, I would rather use native app than web one. On desktop, the "native" app is Electron anyway.

At least the native app for Linux comes with a few shared libraries in addition to Electron. So it's not JavaScript all the way down like the website has to be.

Though frankly I'm fed up with installing yet another mobile app for whatever conferencing system someone wants to use today.

Yeah but to support safari, you need a way to test your web application with it.

The only way to do that is to buy a Mac. That's why a lot of sites don't support it.

I think Microsoft can afford it. I heard at some point they were Apple's largest corporate client for Macintoshes.


Also 50% of the US mobile browser market. (Don’t forget iPhone and iPad.)

This is a bs excuse. The only really hard one to test with is IE11, simply because the dev tools are so incredibly slow on a web app.

That’s actually incorrect. I used Browserstack for testing our web apps. Why buy a Mac when you could basically rent one for your browser testing. We script it out and test out pre-prod web apps.

They don't just lose that 12%, but also the people they want to talk to.

12% for Firefox marketshare? Source? Last time I checked it was ~4.4% (desktop + mobile)

Those are desktop and mobile numbers. Per [1] it’s more like 9 and 3% on desktop, which is really the only place you’d be doing this.

1: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers

If it only support chrome and derivatives, it should be called Skype on Chrome not Skype on Web

I remember reading about this in the early 00's when msn.com and some other MS websites did the same. Changing the UA made the site work just fine.

History repeating itself.

Yeah, it’s pretty lame these days when web apps don’t bother to go the extra mile. The text chat feature still works so maybe they’ll add video support soon? Honestly I’d rather use Skype in the browser instead of installing it. It’s nice to have that stuff alongside webmail and office apps. I’m also an avid Firefox user and won’t switch from them. Mozilla has done amazing work advancing web technology.

You can spoof your UA and it'll work, at least for audio, and maybe video, IIRC. Not really an answer though I know.

I use this - https://mybrowseraddon.com/custom-useragent-string.html - to fake Chrome UA and it works. You only need it faking your UA to open the web version of Skype then you can change it back.

Can someone explain me why Skype needs a plugin to be installed to use it over the web? WebRTC/Sip.js works pretty well these times across all (major) browsers I think?

This is really annoying because Skype video inside a Windows VM basically doesn't work. Encoding/decoding probably falls back to software and is much too slow.

who is using skype anyway?

Skype has 300 million monthly active users https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/05/skype-publicly-launches-sc...

Would be interested to know how successful they are at switching people to Edge (not just with this, but in general).

I recently had to use Windows 10 for some .NET work and found it really surprising that it nags so much when changing the default browser. Not just in the control panel prompt, but repeatedly afterwards via notifications and even on the login screen.

Hint: Your OS shouldn't do this. It should stay out of your way and honour your choices.

The Windows login screen does other startling things, too. I have also seen it display sneaky advertising for Netflix.

Thanks for the info!

Same thing with GoToMetting

It's happening!

OT, but check out the comments in the code. It doesn't instill confidence:

    // Adjusts the position of the given element
    WebDeveloper.Common.adjustElementPosition =      
       function(element, xPosition, yPosition, offset)
      // If the element is set
        var contentWindow = WebDeveloper.Common.getContentWindow();
        var innerHeight   = contentWindow.innerHeight;
        var innerWidth    = contentWindow.innerWidth;
        var offsetHeight  = element.offsetHeight;
        var offsetWidth   = element.offsetWidth;
        var offsetX       = contentWindow.pageXOffset;
        var offsetY       = contentWindow.pageYOffset;

        // If the x position is less than 0
        if(xPosition < 0)
          xPosition = 0;

        // If the y position is less than 0
        if(yPosition < 0)
          yPosition = 0;

        // If the element will fit at the x position
        if(xPosition + offsetWidth + offset + 5 < innerWidth + offsetX)
          element.style.left = xPosition + offset + "px";
          element.style.left = innerWidth + offsetX - offsetWidth - offset + "px";

one may snicker at the redundancy of the "is less than 0" pair and so son, but I'm grateful for "if the element will fit at the x position." It puts into words what isn't obvious from the code.

Fair enough. But if they are going to do that, wouldn't a comment about what the positions are in each case (especially the case where it doesn't fit) be helpful?

    // If it fits, put it there.  If not, align to the right side
or whatever.

        // If the x position is less than 0
        if(xPosition < 0)
Looks like they have some kind of policy of at least 10% of code lines must be comments or something

I write such comments sometimes, the reason is simple: when a codebase has a lot of comments in general comments often act as separators of "groups of code" (and often read like short prose), so seeing a bit of code not having them feels unbalanced and i add some generic comment. The comment acts more as a separator or header, in a "this is the part where we do XYZ", than anything else.

Also this has to be taken into account with syntax highlighting where comments are made to stand out. It doesn't work that much when comments use a faded out color (like some schemes use) or without syntax highlighting at all (well, except perhaps if you use ====== ALL CAPS COMMENTS ====== :-P).

But even then, "Set negative x values to 0" would be a more informative header than repetition of just one part of the statement

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