by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 1st 2009 6:10am
Tue, Mar 24th 2009 3:17am
from the lost-in-the-static dept
Wed, Feb 18th 2009 3:15pm
from the attention-criminals dept
Wed, Jan 28th 2009 2:19am
from the round-two dept
And thus the cycle begins again, with a figure of $900 million to $1.2 billion tossed out there as a potential starting point for the second version of the Skype Billion-Dollar Buyout Plan. What's interesting is that just like four years ago, Skype's financials are murky, as Om Malik points out. The company also still faces the same big problem: monetization. As Skype gets bigger, that problem could become even more difficult. After all, if Skype continues to garner more and more users, more and more calls will shift from the paid SkypeOut service to free Skype-to-Skype calls. Skype is said to be profitable (although there's no indication of how profitable), but it seems pretty clear that it hasn't been the runaway success that would have justified its $4 billion price tag. While it's possible that any current sale could carry a more realistic price, somehow we imagine that eBay will try to use the same tactic that drove up its price for Skype to drive up the next buyer's price.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 2nd 2008 10:32am
from the end-to-end-to-gov't-encryption dept
The only really surprising part of the new report was the fact that the folks storing the messages did it so poorly that the researchers who discovered it were easily able to go in and read messages from others. It's rather telling to note the responses from the two companies involved. A Skype spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal: "The idea that China's government might be monitoring communications in and out of the country shouldn't surprise anyone." No, it shouldn't surprise anyone, but one might think it's rather troubling that Skype promotes itself as having end-to-end encryption, when that's clearly not true. Even more telling, the only thing about this report that seemed to actually concern representatives from Skype was the fact that the conversations had been readable by outsiders, again, telling the WSJ that the "security issue" had been "remedied" by Skype's partner in China, TOM Group. In other words, Skype isn't so concerned about users being spied on, but it is concerned when people can figure out that users are being spied on.
As for TOM Group, its response is pretty much exactly what you'd expect on this issue: "as a Chinese company, we adhere to rules and regulations in China where we operate our businesses." In other words, the government says they need to spy, so we let them spy. Nothing too surprising, but important for folks to know if they somehow thought that Skype's supposed end-to-end encryption actually kept conversations secret in China.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 9th 2008 1:45pm
from the don't-mess-with-the-GPL dept
His actual point, which got less attention, was whether the power of the GPL specifically is waning as other licenses gain prominence -- and, specifically, whether it would be so horrible if the GPL somehow went away. He's not suggesting that's a likely or ideal scenario -- just questioning what would happen. And, the point he makes is that while the GPL paved a very important path, we're seeing other options now appearing, and that's a good thing for open source. Developers now have a much bigger choice among licenses they can choose to adopt, and that competition can lead to interesting innovations. It's not an anti-GPL post -- but recognition that the hopes and dreams of open source software development are no longer tied to the success or failure of the GPL. And that's a good thing for both the GPL and open source.
by Tom Lee
Thu, May 8th 2008 6:49pm
from the expired-license? dept
The GNU General Public License heads to court again today, as Skype attempts to defend its distribution of Linux-enabled SMC hardware handsets that appear to be in violation of the operating system's open source license. It's easy to guess why Skype is fighting the suit, which was brought by GPL activists: the company relies on a proprietary protocol, and releasing the code could give competitors an advantage. You can't blame them for trying. Although in the past few years the GPL has made important strides in establishing its legal enforceability, it's still conceivable that a court could find something wrong with its unusual, viral nature.
Few think that this will be the court case that makes or breaks the GPL. Skype's already lost early rounds of this fight, and the claims it's now making seem so broad as to imply desperation. Besides, the case is being tried in the German legal system, which to date has proven friendly to the GPL.
But even if the license was invalidated, either in this case or another, there's an argument to be made that the GPL has already served its purpose. Its impact on the world of open source software is undeniable: by ensuring that an open project would remain open, the license encouraged programmers to contribute to projects without fear of their work being coopted by commercial interests. And by making it difficult, if not impossible, for a project derived from a GPLed project to go closed-source, it encouraged many programmers to license their efforts under open terms when they otherwise might not have.
But today, with open source firmly established as a cultural and commercial force, the GPL's relevance may be waning. The transition to the third version of the license left many in the open source community upset and intent on sticking with its earlier incarnations. And an increasing number of very high profile projects, like Mozilla, Apache and Open Office, have seen fit to create their own licenses or employ the less restrictive LGPL. The raw numbers bear out the idea of a slight decline in the GPL's prominence, too: Wikipedia lists the percentage of GPLed projects on Sourceforge.net and Freshmeat.net, two large open source software repositories, as 68% and 65%, respectively, as of November '03 and January '06. Today, the most recently available numbers show that Sourceforge's share has fallen to 65%, and Freshmeat's share has fallen to to 62%.
This is, of course, a small decline, and the GPL remains the world's most popular open source license by a considerable margin. But it does seem as though there may be a slowly decreasing appetite for the license's militant approach to copyleft ideals. I certainly don't wish Skype well in its probably-quixotic tilt at the GPL, but if they were to somehow get lucky at least they'd be doing so at a point in the open source movement's history when the GPL is decreasingly essential.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 18th 2008 7:49pm
from the fun-stuff dept
Sadly I can detect no pattern to my mis-predictions. In some cases, I did not anticipate improvements and advances that would remake a pathetic first version into a truly cool tool. In others I anticipated advances that never came.It got me thinking about which predictions or trends I totally missed on, and thought it might be fun to post some of them here. In Silicon Valley, people are so focused on the future, they don't look back often enough. Besides, it's healthy (and a bit cathartic) to review your mistakes every once in a while. I'll admit that on some of these it took some serious thinking to remember my initial feelings about them, as my opinions have changed. Anyway, feel free to think through some of your own in the comments.
- Google. Now, to be fair, I always thought that Google was a great offering, and I was one of the early adopters and users of the search engine. What I didn't understand was how the company would make money -- and why Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia would put $25 million into a company that had no revenue and no clear path to revenue. Given the founders rather vehement claims that advertising on a search engine was bad (and, yes, they were vehement about this early on), I thought the company would struggle to find a business model. In fact, it did struggle for a little while... but once the company figured it out....
- RSS. While we at Techdirt were a somewhat early adopter in providing an RSS feed, I wasn't much of a believer in the technology for a while. I had been using various "multibrowser" systems that would load up a bunch of websites in a huge long list -- and that seemed like a perfectly efficient system for me to use. I was on the record saying I thought RSS was too confusing for most people -- and I still think it suffers from some of those problems, but it's become tremendously successful -- due, in large part, to the user-friendliness of various RSS readers, starting with Bloglines and moving on to Google Reader and the various customizable home page solutions.
- Skype: It launched to a ton of hype and I wasn't buying any of it. There were already a bunch of voicechat products on the market, and there had been for years. I just didn't see what was all that different about Skype. To be honest, I'm still not sure what was so different about it -- but it got users, and for the most part "it just worked." Never underestimate the power of those two things.
- The web itself: I first heard about "the world wide web" in early 1994. I had been using email, usenet and gopher for a while before that. While I knew that the web was something special, as soon as I first tried out Mosaic in 1994, I didn't think it would become this big of a deal. In fact, I just assumed that the world would move on to something else after a few years. After all, after the web came along, gopher pretty much died out, and I assumed that some new offering would come along and make the web obsolete, just as the web did to gopher.
- The original Napster: While I actually only played around with Napster briefly (at the time I had no broadband connection), I thought that it would revolutionize the music industry. In a way, it did, but not the way I expected it to. I honestly thought that (1) Napster would be found legal and that (2) the recording industry would quickly realize what a useful tool it would be for distribution and promotion of music. Boy, was I wrong on that one.... Though, to be fair, at the time, there were plenty of others who felt the same way. It's only in retrospect that people now say that Napster was obviously illegal.
- Intelligent Agents. I had done a research project in college about some of the work being done on intelligent computer agents, and I really thought the technology had a lot of promise. I figured that well before now, there would be virtual assistants everywhere, doing things and making people's lives more efficient. Turns out the technology never really worked all that well, and at best, most of the early efforts in the space moved on to things like collaborative filtering.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 18th 2008 3:11pm
from the there-must-be-a-pony-in-there-somewhere dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 1st 2008 4:46pm
from the we-don't-need-no-discussion-at-all.. dept
So, it probably doesn't come as much surprise to find out that telco buddy Kevin Martin is dismissing the Skype petition outright. He announced this at the CTIA conference, where it was greeted by applause -- suggesting that it was mostly employees from mobile operators in the room. Martin pointed out that there was a lot of competition in the mobile space and also noted Verizon Wireless' move towards openness. Of course, it may be a bit early to declare Verizon Wireless truly open, and it seems a bit odd to dismiss the Skype petition out of hand without any public discussion. While it's probably true that the Skype petition was asking for unnecessary regulations, you would think that at least a discussion could have been held around questions of openness on mobile networks before the petition was totally dismissed.