Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Skype Problems And Limitations

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What are some economic, privacy, and security implications of the new Skype VoIP technology?

Taking the opportunity offered by the above question raised by one of my readers, Jermaine Arphul, and by the response posted yesterday by Anon, I engage myself today in a little excursion over some of the critical aspects of Skype and analyze some of the myths and false truths that the Internet buzz has been spreading.


See my comments in standard text and the original answer-post by Anon in italic:

Economic - companies save a goodly amount on conference calls if this feature is ever implemented. Other than that, not much for now.

Realistically, if you are in Italy and wanna talk to someone in Canada, chances are it will be easier for you to find a phone rather than a computer with a relatively decent connection and a headset. This may change eventually.

I find myself in a different position. Probably I am not a typical user or a standard consumer but my situation is as follows:

if from Italy I want to call Stephen in Canada, I first check that he/she has a computer and I email him or instant message him. Second step is to gently inform him and invite him to try out my private voice room or whatever other voice communication tool I may have setup privately for me.

Case 2. Even when it is a company in North America or Canada that wants to talk to me, to give me a demo, or to showcase a new service, I ALWAYS invite them to try out my no cost, no-phone solution, and if they prefer to go with the traditional and expensive solution I don't offer any resistance.

Point is, you can't expect things to change all of sudden. You need to do your own evangelizing and to educate gently your friends and partners. By doing so I have increased ten fold my savings on the phone bill, while hardly loosing any exchange of good ideas with my partners and suppliers.

I make very sure that if my correspondent is a non-technical user the voice communication tool I choose is as simple and straightforrward to install and use as possible. Skype is one of these.

The thing that interests me is that tens of thousands already using Skype are now placing calls by screen name, not phone number. That may truly be the wave of the future...cell phones already use digital and packet based communications, so calling someone by typing in a name without bothering with a number is easily possible in the not-too-distant future.

Just like we refer to Web sites by name and not by their IP address it would seem only natural to develop and adopt an effective DNS that would be able to resolve any persons name to a phone number of IP address. SIP, from what I udnerstand of it, may be play a very important role toward these changes.

Privacy - don't let anyone who isn't on your friends list place calls to you and you're set. It may really be that simple, and is certainly not something you can do with an ordinary telephone. That in and of itself makes it worth the effort for those of us sick of sales calls.

This is an important point. It actually brings to the surface another important fact. With Skype, unless you select not to receive calls from users you don't know, you are really open to be called by anyone who decides to do so. While this may be a temporary enjoyable experience for those seeking chat partners, it is the least interesting for anyone trying to carry out serious work with these technologies.

On the tracks of what instant messengers have long prototiped and refined over the years, Skype has fully realized that privacy is a very important issue and that is the end user to decide who can be allowed to call in.

Security - Skype is encrypted and routed over the Internet... intercepting a conversation that goes on for any length of time would be difficult unless you were near an end point due to the flexibility of internet routing (especially from, e.g. Italy to Canada). Decrypting what you get would also take a lot of time. Essentially, your real time communication is safe...someone may decrypt it tomorrow or a month from now, but not in real time unless they already have the key. Of course, they can save it indefinitely until they do decrypt it, if they feel the need (decryption requires serious processing power, serious amounts of time, and thus serious desire to hear the conversation).

This is true but this does not define security in a way that is sufficiently close to my actual needs. While Anon may be very right about the difficulties surrounding any attempt to decrypt a Skype-based voice conversation, such approach to securing the transmission channel completely overlooks the need to be able to assess with a bit higher degree of certainty who is actually on the other hand of the conversation.

If I am so keen in wanting that my conversation with a CEO of another company or with a new remote doctor are secure, why do I not care to make sure FIRST that the person on the other hand of a Skype/VoIP/virtual conversation is actually the person he/she claims to be?

Does anyone know what audio sampling/compression they're using? It sounds amazing good but there is barely any delay, so I assume it must be something new and proprietary.

Not so. Skype does suffer from significant audio delay and latency problems under particular circumstances. Anon is probably lucky enough to have conducted only Skype conversations with North-American based users who are also on high-bandwidth connections.

In my extensive tests and trials I have seen Skype become next to unusuable when having conversations with users in not so well connected countries, when users are not on a high bandwidth connection, and also when users had excessive processing power engaged by other simultaneously running applications.

Skype is not the best VoIP tool on the market and give that it is still in Beta, I can certainly expect some significant improvements by the time it comes out with version 1.0.

There are other SOHO VoIP tools which are outstandingly better than Skype in terms of quality, reliability, latency and ability to work on any type of connection line, from 14.4 Kbps and up. Anyone who asserts to the contrary has not been telling you the truth.

Skype is not exempt from other type of problems as well, including mostly issues of usability and missing key functionalities that would be essential for a professional use of this tool.

While Skype remains the outstanding VoIP free tool the buzz keeps reporting, it is good to be aware that Skype is not alone in this rush to success and that there are tools that can ideed give you 100% of what Skype is only hinting at now.

Skype greatest strength and ability is exclusively in the magistral cleverness and determination used in combining two uniquely powerful marketing communication forces into one:

a) the extreme reach (Skype's owner experience with launching Kazaa has taught them some good lessons while leaving them with tens of millions of registered contacts)

b) the integrated viral marketing aspect of VoIP, where if you want to show off what you have got, you need to have at least another person discovering and using your new tool.

N.B.: Too bad that none of the many other talented VoIP companies out there has not grasped and leveraged these two basic fundamental concepts so far. They all went for the "money first" proposition and now they can look at Skype as it blazes above them at the speed of light:

Over 2 million users in less than 2 months!
You be the judge.

Related articles:

  1. Please Skype Me: Disruptive P2P VoIP Technology Allows You To Call And Talk Free To Any Windows PC

  2. Is Quality Voice-over-IP Ready For Prime Time?

  3. Live Web Interaction Is Ready For Prime Time: How Can You Do Without It?

  4. Best New Tools For Web Conferencing And Live Collaboration

  5. Is Quality Voice-over-IP Ready For Prime Time?

Readers' Comments    
2008-02-28 17:21:44

California Guy

Hello Robin,

Here's an issue I'm having that is a bit baffling that I'm hoping you can shed some light on.

Skype is Using 90 per cent CPU Only When Trying to Access One Particular Public Chat Room.

I've installed the latest Skype (v3.6.0.248) on my Windows XP SP2 system.

I can access all the other ten or so rooms that I belong to, but when I access one particular public Skype chat room from my Skype Bookmarks, the CPU activity of the Skype process (as indicated by Process Explorer) shoots up to greater than 90 per cent.

The history file, it is true, is very large as there are a lot of posts and they go back five months or more. However, I can't even get into the room at all.

Any idea why this is happening only for this one room, and how to resolve it?

BTW: Deleting my history file is NOT an option. Hopefully, Skype will re-design the history files so there is one file per chat. Is there a way to repair the history files? Is there a way to edit them?

2007-03-05 16:54:46

Lisa D

I signed up for skype but can not figure out how to add contact. I sign in and then anything I click on in the page I get thrown out to a skype page with a header to sign in again. Where's the problem? Appreciate any help in this matter

2006-05-25 22:29:49

Bill MacGregor

Skype`s software has come along way BUT, in you report you missed the BIG problem.
It looks like you as 99.999% of people that use the Internet and or any Programs never Read The T.O.S.`s.
Of course if everyone did read them and refused to agree with most T.O.S.`s did we would not have most of the Security Problems of today.
But with companies like Google, AOL, M$ making everyone feel all warm and fuzzy, I see nothing but continued Spying and Collecting of everyones personal info.
Opps I got away from Skypes T.O.S.
below is a snip that if more people new about, would think twice about letting skype auto start.

snip> Article 4 Utilization of Your computer

4.1 Utilization of Your computer. You hereby acknowledge that the Skype Software may utilize the processor and bandwidth of the computer (or other applicable device) You are utilizing, for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between Skype Software users.

4.2 Protection of Your computer (resources). You understand that the Skype Software will use its commercially reasonable efforts to protect the privacy and integrity of the computer resources (or other applicable device) You are utilizing and of Your communication, however, You acknowledge and agree that Skype cannot give any warranties in this respect.
Here is a good maybe the best sourse to quote. If they do not allow software on any computer within their network no one else Should!

Well this could keep you writing for at least a year if you had the gutts. I have found that very few people want to tell or expose the Truth about M$ Google and all of their so-called Free ware[spyware] AOL, Netscape. These are the Top Companies that people trust but Have The Best Spyware In the World.
Have a Good Day
BILL MacGregor K.I.S.S. Security LLC
X AOL employee I knew Steve in Honolulu

2005-06-24 12:25:55

Why are all my queries to skype about intermittent soun break up falling on deaf ears if you will pardon the pun.
I have sent 6 calls for help to them and am not getting a reply.
Is ther a problem of a link between dial up and broadband.
Can anyone throw some light on this problem?
Bert Gasson.

2005-02-19 07:24:42

Venkata Giri Vatlam

I am unable to create Skype account.

2004-12-30 18:15:34


i've some sound problems with skypeOut. The person on the other end can not unterstand me.

I've a Pentium II 566mhz with 200mram. When using skype, my cpu is used from 70 to 100%. After installing windowsXP new with default services, the problem still was existing.

If i use a usb2 microphone, sound quality is a little better but still bad.

When i phone with skype to an other computer (without skypeOut), i've no problems with the sound quality.

What's the problem here? what minimum requirements does i need for skype (PentiumX/y, RAM)?

2004-10-20 18:59:26

David F

Just sharing the fix I found to get Skype to install.
Had been getting "Server Not Found Error"
I monitored packets to see which addresses were being sought.
Got my ISP to unblock and

works perfectly now


2004-10-11 05:07:25

Hon Kong

"There are other SOHO VoIP tools which are outstandingly better than Skype in terms of quality, reliability, latency and ability to work on any type of connection line, from 14.4 Kbps and up. Anyone who asserts to the contrary has not been telling you the truth."

Having made the aforementioned statement, what're the "...other SOHO VoIP tools which are outstandingly better than Skype..."?

My search for an answer on the site has been an exercise in futility!

It's not hard to create a web site, but the creator or the web master must be responsible and accountable for whatever they publish. For failing to provide an answer after creating question from the aforementioned statement, the credibility of the web site is questionable.

2004-10-02 04:06:55


"There are other SOHO VoIP tools which are outstandingly better than Skype in terms of quality, reliability, latency and ability to work on any type of connection line, from 14.4 Kbps and up. Anyone who asserts to the contrary has not been telling you the truth."

Skype is the best VoIP tool I've personally encountered. If you have personal experience to the contrary, please share the website links to these superior alternatives. After I try them out, I'll let you know if I agree with you.

2004-09-13 00:19:40


Why is it that when using skype out I was charged to my credit card, and I was able to use Skype Out to call Poland, Norway and the USA and now I am denied. I use their online chat service and they say my problem is at level two. I was able to use the service until my level of credit reached 3:35 Euro. Are there anymore others out there like this who have been charged for a service they paid for and then are denied it? I have been waiting for nearly 3 weeks for this problem to be resolved and I have urgent calls to make with this service. I feel I will seek out a better service like Net2phone

2004-09-10 07:03:47


Check O/S and service pack being used. Problem with XP SP2 using broadband connections (DNS Stack).
Check that the IP address you are using is not on a black list. (Problem with some ISP ip address ranges that stop email being sent/received and who knows what else! Have seen this problem with AOL, Netscape accounts - goto link below for details. ( If your ip address is on a black list through no fault of your own send email to webmaster at your isp to get it removed.
Hope you solve your problem soon.

2004-08-30 22:34:00

Martin Clayton

Hi folks, it is now 7+ weeks since I have not managed to get into the SKYPE account page

Can anyone help?

Tiscali now say~;

Dear Mr Clayton:

The trouble with Skype is related with massive baning from other ISPs
and Internet networks to some Tiscali´s IP ranges, I gave this information
to our bosses and they are working in it.

Please accept our apologies, and please understand it´s not a Tiscali
internal trouble with the service.

Thank you for your attenion and kind regards.

Back Office1

Servicio Atención al Cliente
Tiscali España S.L.U.

Please a clever person, tell me what I have to do to get access or is it a lost cause

Martin Clayton

2004-08-14 06:18:41

Martin Clayton

Skype access..

It's now 5 weeks and have not solved the problem of their server not allowing subscribers in the region of teh Costa del Sol access to the account pages and thus not enabling SKYPE OUT.

The problem is from as by using a dial up from the same computer I have 100% access

Anyone out there who can help?


2004-07-20 09:08:29

Martin Clayton

I installed SKYPE and have found it to be a very useful tool. I am with on teh Costa del Sol Broadband - 10 days ago, I could no longer access teh Skype home page and in fact I could not contact Skype at all! every time I tried i got the page that said "could not display page" and at teh bottom -;

Cannot find server or DNS Error
Internet Explorer

It also happened to anoth Skype subscriber in this vacinity using teh same conection at teh same time. have been less than useless in their attempts to solve the issue hence 10 days later and I still cant get in. It is important as I cannot get help or make Skype Out calls or top up my account..

A Marketing firm here in Spain for is assisting but they too are finding out that there advertising is offering a service that are not delivering.. is not even responding to their queries.. what chance does an individual have

Answers please..

Martin Clayton

All sites on the WEB are open to me..

2004-07-09 20:39:16


I have a problem with Skype and i will be grateful if someone will help me.Sometimes,i make the connection with my friend (and we hear each other very well) but after 3-5 seconds i get some interruptions and after they stop he can't hear me anymore.I can still hear him but he doesn't hear me.I really don't know what is wrong.Can you please help me?Thank you very much

2004-05-25 01:42:12


I have downloaded SKYPE just a few days ago and after a glitch of small problems decided to run
System Restore. Well it seems that even though I had correctly installed the Skype program software
it was removed by the System restore operation.
So for any one considering installing Skype you should be made aware of this.

posted by Robin Good on Thursday, November 6 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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