Why is Skype not part of Ubuntu?
Skype is not part of the Ubuntu distribution because it does not conform to the requirements of the Ubuntu Charter. This is primarily because source code is not available. A consequence of this is that it is impossible to understand the Skype communication protocol, which prevents competition and fractures the VoIP market, making it harder for people to communicate. As an example, Skype users can only talk with other Skype users because the Skype protocol is closed. But people using SIP clients like Ekiga can talk with anyone else using a SIP client (such as Wengophone or Twinkle) since SIP is a free protocol. Earlier versions of Skype (1.2 and older) might have issues with basic sound cards that do not support hardware mixing due to using the Open Sound System (OSS).
VoIP soft-phones included in Ubuntu
There are several alternative software based VoIP phones, that are 'free libre open', use 'open' protocols, and are included in the Ubuntu repositories. Among others, there are:
- Wengophone now known as Qutecom.
Ethics of Skype
Ubuntu supports free software, which anyone can use, modify and improve, and open protocols, so that different software can interoperate. Skype's software and the Skype protocol are both entirely secret. Users may choose to avoid Skype because:
- They will be forced to use Skype software as no alternatives will be available
- Once they develop a Skype network of contacts, it will be harder to move to a free network
- Skype could begin charging for their service at any time they choose
- Skype already has discussed limiting the capabilities of Skype for non-Intel users (details here)
- Skype is provided and runs natively only on the i386 architecture, excluding people using other architectures
Users may choose to avoid Skype because they have been engaged in censorship in China. Chinese users and users in certain countries may fear that along with censorship, they will suffer disclosure of their private conversations to other people, authorities or governments. Please see the following links for more information:
- Slashdot : Skype Messages Monitored In China
- The Register: Skype censoring in China
- FT: Skype says texts are censored by China
- Skype security and privacy concerns
- Skype uses excessive network resources, possibly also resources not owned by you
Note that open VoIP protocols such as SIP may offer confidentiality and may offer encryption it does not have to. Similarly VoIP providers may be mandated to provide wiretap access anyway.