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Skype Bad, Gizmo Good

Net calling software Skype has exploded onto the scene. Its ease of use and robustness have quickly built an enormous user base and introduced many to the power of net calling. But Internet users should be wary of Skype because its strategy is a throwback to the '80s built on proprietary standards that locks out all others. This week, a product called Gizmo is being unveiled - the first viable Skype alternative built on open source that pledges to connect to all.

Learn more about the Gizmo Project

At a recent conference, a Skype founder suggested "regulating the incumbents" to force others to carry Skype calls. Skype calls go over the public Internet, but are often carried on telephone company wiring (DSL) which Skype is worried could be configured to block their calls. They are proposing that the government should step in and demand that those telephone company networks carry Skype calls.

Meanwhile, Skype is refusing to carry anyone else's calls on their own phone system. They are engaging in exact behavior - they are worried about others trying. Skype can't have it both ways. If Skype wants to lock others out of their system, shouldn't the telephone companies have the same right also?

To understand how Skype currently works and why it's dangerous for the future of net calling, you have to think back to the days of online services such as Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve. Each was a closed system with no ability to email across services - AOL users could only email AOL users, Prodigy users could only email Prodigy users and so on. It was a confusing mess since people were required to have many different accounts on different services just to be able to communicate with others. Fortunately, the world grew and coalesced around open standards and those email systems agreed to interconnect. This made it possible for example for an AOL user to email an Earthlink user or any other email account on the Internet. Today you just need one email address to email anyone in the world, which is great.

Skype's calls go over the same net that we all connect to, but they are locked away from the rest of the world. They are recreating the old closed world rather than embracing the new Internet where all users are interconnected. It may be good for Skype's business to lock out other number directories because it gives them complete control, but it's terrible for consumers because they will be forced into a monopoly.

The world needs open solutions where all systems are connected and are built around standards. This lets consumers choose from multiple software and devices from many manufacturers. It ensures that they will always be treated fairly and the market won't be controlled by just one company. SIP is that standard, but until today there hasn't been any SIP-based software that could compare with Skype.

About 6 months ago, SIPphone decided to build a standards-based net calling program that would push the industry in the right direction. Today, we're announcing beta versions of Gizmo available for Mac and Microsoft Windows (and soon Linux). Gizmo matches Skype's features plus add some neat ones, but more importantly it's based on standards so it gives consumers choice and prevents one company lock-in like we have suffered through with Microsoft.

Gizmo works with the open standard SIP AND we are committed to interconnecting with others. Gizmo users can already make free calls directly to thousands of business, university and other organizational phone numbers around the world as well as to other net calling communities with absolutely no charge. (If you'd like to connect your business, university or network to Gizmo please go here.)


Skype v. Gizmo - The Comparison

Feature
Skype
Gizmo Project
Description
Works with all networks
Yes
Yes
Gizmo is the first SIP-based software program which works behind complex networking setups like Skype does.
Phone adapters/routers
-
Yes
Gizmo uses the SIP standard so it can be used with any SIP-compliant router or phone adapter. See www.siphardware.com for more info.
WiFi phones
-
Yes
Any WiFi SIP phone can send/receive calls from Gizmo.
Open directory
-
Yes
The Gizmo directory is open to connect to everyone and currently connects to hundreds of universities, companies and network directories. Gizmo also connects to Asterisk systems via DUNDI.
Cool name
Yes
-
"Gizmo" started off as internal project name and we know it's lame. We're looking for a better name! Send your suggestion to name-idea@sipphone.com
Call record
-
Yes
Record any call or conference call with a click of a button.
Free voice mail
-
Yes
Receive voice mail messages via email as audio attachments.
Map call location
-
Yes
Graphical map can show location of caller.
Voice recognition
-
Yes
Developers can write voice applications based on VXML standard. For example, dial "info" and a voice-driven application takes over.

I recently tested Gizmo while flying to Europe on a plane that had WiFi capability. Passengers around me were stunned that the calls were possible. Several downloaded Gizmo and began using the beta from the airplane and marveled at the audio quality. If you use OS X or XP, you can download Gizmo today and the Linux version is coming soon!

-- Michael
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