My good friend (and co-host) Roy has recently been writing about Canonical and its promotion of the now Microsoft owned Skype. As usual with TechRights it’s a very interesting read and whilst I have other commitments taking me away from this digital world of wonder, I do have time to put a slightly different angle to the whole “to skype or not to skype” question.
The article I refer to is here: http://techrights.org/2012/08/01/software-center-spyware/
So now that Microsoft owns Skype (and as we will see has a plethora of snooping allegations against it) should we turn our heads away in disgust? or should, as I believe stop and consider that maybe its not so much an issue.
I use Skype. Whilst the TechBytes show in the future may not be facilitating it on my return, the fact is I have relatives who do, so why not just get them onto an alternative? – well for me (and I expect many others) its not that simple. My relatives have people on their contact list who aso use Skype and those contacts have contacts (ad infinitum) so in order to migrate my contacts from a communication tool such as Skype is far more convoluted than merely offering them a different method, especially when we are dealing with the type of user who is not prepared to have a plethora of apps installed all doing the same thing.
If we also look towards the allegation of snooping – which has hit the mainstream press, we have to consider that if it is true, then its hardly a secret and people are going into Skype with full knowledge of the allegations towards it. If they choose to accept that caveat in return for speaking with their contacts, then fine, there is no issue – as long as they are aware of the implications of using.
Whilst it seems a bizarre world where Microsoft, hardly friendly towards competition has its app in the forefront of the Ubuntu app store and a given that many people would feel put out by a Microsoft product getting exposure on a Linux OS (and a damn popular one), on the other-hand if we look say at one of my relatives, Skype (rightly or wrongly) is an important part of their online life and to boycott/remove it from the Ubuntu ecosystem would be a barrier to them if they are considering a move to Canonical’s offering from Windows.
Knowing that Skype is spyware, will Canonical remove it from the software center and its main homepage? Those who really want it installed will find a way; it’s opportunistic for Canonical to use proprietary software to lure in users.
To which I’d remark that possibly the includsion of Skype would prove to encourage more to enter the Linux world. Those who really want it probably won’t have the level of knowledge required to install it, so to remove Skype, in my view would effectively “kill” it for the majority of mainstream Linux users (as well as giving a potential issue to some who use Skype and wants to migrate from Windows)
I’d be interested to hear others views on Canonical’s Skype decision. For me, if it acts as a “selling point” to replace Windows, then thats a good thing and whilst we know of previous dirty tricks allegations against Microsoft, so long as users are aware of the implications of using Skype, I cannot see the harm. To remove, would (as in the case I’ve highlighted above) potentially harm a decision to move over to Linux by your average consumer who needs/wants Skype.
Whilst considering the issue of “snooping” it may be worthy of note that casting an eye over your mobile phone contract will reveal quite a robust set of agreements. For me, the fear of any particular individual being intruded upon, is no more or less serious than the situation we have in the mobile phone world already.
On the Ubuntu marketplace, the Android marketplace and from my circle of friends/relatives, Skype is up their with the most popular apps. Surely for Canonical to refuse such an app would be far more disastrous than to keep it in situe?
We must also consider that whilst Microsoft hardly has a good image in the minds of many, Skype was merely bought by Microsoft. The popularity of the app is has little to do with what Microsoft has achieved since it was bedded into the market by others. I certainly, in the case of Skype don’t feel tainted by using this particular “Microsoft” product. Do they want to listen to my calls? Do they listen to my calls? I’ll keep that in mind next time I have a conversation.
As for proprietary, I think that’s a personal decision for each Linux user and I would say that using any software with the knowledge of its implications is fine (providing you agree with those caveats) I would also like people to consider that whilst they may find Canonical’s inclusion of Skype distasteful, they also include Dropbox, which unless I am mistaken is competition to their own Ubuntu One. Presumably they do this as they want as much choice available to users as possible in order to bring them to Ubuntu.
Application choice on the back of informed choice – there’s no problem with that at all.