Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Skype Reviewed

Slashdot takes up on a New York Times article chanting the many virtues of Skype, the cross-platform free Voice-over-IP technology that allows quality voice communications between any two computers and that has now also added conferencing calls, computer-to-phone calls and direct file transfers among computers.

Skype is a P2P (peer-to-peer) technology which utilizes the end users themselves as actual nodes in a continuosly changing network topology.

Nonetheless the mostly positive comments presented in the rich Slashdot page covering Skype, the technology doesn't come without drawbacks.

Here is my personal list of what is not really that great yet with Skype:

a) Live voice communications can be great, but they can be as bad as wanting to hang up the next second you have started. In my personal experience, this happens especially when communicating at very large distances, when one or two of the users are on a dial-up line, and when the system resources available to each are not rather abundant.

b) SkypeOut works wonders and at extraordinarily low rates, but it does also fail. You can have international numbers not reachable for indetermined amount of time, or very bad call quality even if calling a landline from your own broadband connection. Echo may creep in and delay can be so bad to make you want to stop.

c) Interface and usability has still a long way to go. Icons are hard to make sense of, and moving from one common task to another at times is not as easy as it should be. Can't seem to be able to group or organiza better my contacts and when you start to have a few this becomes an issue. Alphabetical ordering is not enough.

d) Skype is very demanding with my computer. I have a Pentium III 1Ghz 128MB standard PC for my tests and when one runs Skype, the computer is slowed dawn to a crawl. Even browsing Web sites becomes a slow-motion activity when using Skype at the same time.

e) Instant messaging is still primitive. If I can't see when the other party is typing I am thrown back 8-10 years when you never knew if the other party in a text chat conversation was still there and replying or had gone to take a walk in the park. Most "modern" IM (instant messaging) tools show a visual feedback when your chat partner is typing, giving you much greater appreciation of the ongoing exchange and the ability to follow with greater focus a rapid online text exchange.

f) File exchange is a dinosaur. This is a great feature, offering the ability to send files as large as 1 GB directly to another Skype user. Unfortunately the average transfer speed is nothing short of ridicolous resulting in excessively long times for the effective transfer of any reasonably-sized file. Disappointing at best.

Nonetheless the above, Skype is a great technology indeed, and I would personally recommend everyone to go out and test it on their PC, Mac or Linux computer.

It is important to realize that no-one technology is perfect, and that certain application or uses can best expose the key advantages and limitations it may have.

I strongly invite you therefore to take with due distance Skype reports indicating only positive items and to be aware that there are indeed very wide margins of improvements even for this highly disruptive and increasingly popular Voice-over-IP technology.

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Reference: [via Slashdot - New York Times] [ Read more ]
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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, September 7 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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