Bye bye Skype, here comes XMPP!

So far, we already had excellent reasons to refuse using Skype. Indeed, this protocol is closed, but most of all it doesn’t allow any interoperability, which is the height for a communication protocol! Imagine you could make phone calls only to people subscribed to the same telephone operator.

We already had an excellent protocol for instant messaging: an open standard, perfect to achieve interoperability. Its name is xmpp, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. On top, a lot of services are already used by millions of people: Jabber, on which is based Google Talk (and soon Facebook Chat) among many others, but also other interesting things such as, a social network completely based on the xmpp protocol.

But now, besides that, we also have a technical reason to say bye bye to Skype :)

Indeed, a lot of people were still making use of Skype because it was more convenient to have a video-conversation. It worked better and often between different operating systems. It was the only way for people using Gnu/Linux to have a video-conversation with people using Microsoft Windows: every other software was lacking stability and was often randomly working.

But a lot of effort have been put into improving this. And following the specification of Jingle, came the implementation of multimedia sessions. This implementation took time. But now, it’s getting to the end.

We can now have video-conversations using xmpp and it works just great! The main thing is that it is now possible with Microsoft Windows users! Using Empathy, you can now call people using the Gmail Web interface, see their face and hear their voice.

There aren’t any technical barriers left toward free video-conversation anymore!

Bye bye Skype, Welcome XMPP!


OOXML, ODF, standards and innovation: Steve Ballmer

Here is an interesting video from a conference Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) gave at Sciences Po, my university, in October 2007. My friend Pierre Slamich, who is also responsible for our association “Digital Freedom” asked Steve Ballmer about the future of OOXML since its failure to be accepted as an international standard in the first place.

You can download the video in Ogg/Theora.

Pierre: “Microsoft-Office”Open”XML (MS-OOXML)* was recently dismissed as an international standard, so what will Microsoft do about this? Will you merge it with the OpenDocument Format(ODF) standard or maintain two standards on the market place?”

Steve Ballmer: “Well, MS-OOXML is an international standard, it is an European standard actually [...] The truth is, We don’t control MS-OOXML anymore, it is now controlled by the European Computer Manufacturer Association (ECMA) so whether it gets merged will be largely in function of how the standardisation organizations want to move forward. [...] [ODF and MS-OOXML] do interoperate at some level of fidelity. We are encouraging people to take a pluralistic view of this.

Otherwise what will happen is: we don’t want standards to be the enemy of innovation.”

* funny to see how Pierre has troubles to say Office “Open”…because MS-OOXML is all but an open standard! For some more information about how Microsoft standard is “open” you can see this comparison with ODF.

I always like it when Microsoft talks about “innovation.” See this article from Georg Greve, Microsoft, Antitrust and innovation on Groklaw.