Skype fans, we have something to tell you and you’re not gonna to like it: your Internet telephony service of choice may soon be defunct.
Why would a platform with twice the number of Facebook users (480 million and counting) go kaput, you ask? Well, because along the way a lot of lame stuff happened, and now eBay is being sued for breaching the licensing agreement for the peer-to-peer technology at the heart of Skype, which was not included when the auction king bought it back in 2005.
Skype: A History
Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded Skype back in 2003, but things didn’t get interesting until eBay acquired it in 2005 for a whopping US$ 2.6 billion. Since then the platform has introduced veideotelephony, a convenient PayPal payment option, suffered a highly publicized system-wide crash and for exact reasons unknown, lost Zennström as its CEO in 2007 when he stepped down to become non-executive chairman of the board of directors.
The plot got especially thicker in spring of this year when it became clear that Zennström and Friis had intentions of buying the platform back, and buzz over exactly why they had sold it in the first place began to resurface as a point of confusion among users.
Fast forward to present times and we’re smack in the middle of an all-out war between Skype and Joltid, the peer-to-peer company that owns the core of Skype and is lead by Zennström and Friis.
Word ‘round the way is Skype filed a claim against Joltid in the English high court in March and, in response, Joltid filed a countersuit, claiming Skype had no right to use or modify certain code. As a result of the so-called breached license agreement, Joltid said it would terminate the agreement altogether, leaving eBay without the guts of the platform.
eBay admitted in an April filing with the SEC that "although Skype is confident of its legal position, as with any litigation, there is the possibility of an adverse result if the matter is not resolved through negotiation. In such event, Skype would be adversely affected and the continued operation of Skype's business as currently conducted would likely not be possible."
Life Without Skype
It’s unimaginable, that’s for sure. Other popular VoIP solutions include Google Talk and iChat, but surprisingly neither of the mega brands holds a candle to Skype in this particular niche. If the platform is lost to a legal battle, a lot of people are going to be a lot of angry.
eBay is scrambling to throw together their own peer-to-peer core technology in the event that they lose the case, but the SEC announcement contained alarming warnings such as the new software development being fairly expensive, possibly unsuccessful, and could result in loss of certain functionality or customers.
This certainly puts a damper on eBay’s plans to release Skype as a separate, publicly listed company next year.
The high court is scheduled to hear arguments concerning the trial in June 2010, so if you’re a Skype user you’ve got at least a few more months left before what could be the platform’s D-Day. Keep watch with us here until then.