October 23, 2006

on Skype and OpenWengo

On my recent post mentioning Kopete’s skype plugin, I got a comment:

OpenWengo ( http://OpenWengo.org) is completely open source (GPL), uses Qt for its GUI, and has a better voice quality than Skype.

This comment is very valuable, as it touches a very sensitive topic. I already got some flames by fanatics on my blog just because mentioning non-free software on previous posts (like Flash). This time the comment was in the right approach, link and promote the free alternative.

I fully agree OpenWengo is the way to go. I already know OpenWengo and I have some credit in my wengo account. To be honest I have never been able to make it work well, but to be honest I haven’t tried really hard. Well, a user should not spend time trying. But definitly Wengo is the way to go.

Now, messaging systems are social networks, so the value of it it is not given only by it’s license, toolkit, or whatever, but some function on the number of people using it.
I am a Jabber user sice long time. But I was never able to use Jabber until Google transformed it into a product, because Jabber before that was a technology, not a product, and there were not massive products based on it around.

Same happens with Word files. Why even KWord tries hard to import them, why do we care? because even if .doc sucks, the word processing document is part of a business social network were thousands of employees and private people use(missuse) it for information exchanging (and virus exchanging). The value is there.
So OpenWengo works fine to call a normal phone. But go and try to convince all your friends to abandon Skype. You can’t because if your friends are not in a SIP based system then you can’t talk to them, but your friends have exactly reason to not to switch.

The right thing would have been not to allow proprietary centralized systems like MSN, Skype, etc to grow like they did. But they did and lot of people use it. You won’t win the battle telling your friends “hey jabber is much better it is xml it is open and opensource blahblah”, “Who can I talk with?” (before gtalk) “ehmm… with the author of the client?”.

We will have to provide some kind of support to closed technologies that have high social lock-in. Then you make the open alternative rock more, and then is when the average use does viral marketing to convince friends. Not before.

So the reason for somebody to implement a Skype plugin for Kopete is not to enjoy Skype cpu usage, and it’s proprietary protocol, but just being able to talk with people that is not going to switch yet. It just allow you to integrate your Kopete contact list with skype contacts, and doing the calls over skype.

Going back to wengo. I am interested to know how can we use its VoIP component only in Kopete, because the new WengoNG seems to replicate a full messaging client, including support for the common proprietary networks.