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Skype preps open source Linux VoIP UI

Nov 4, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Skype announced that it is working on an open source UI layer for its Linux VoIP client. Although apparently not fully open source, the upcoming version of the Skype client for Linux could enable more open development of client front ends, including those for mobile devices.

Skype has offered a Linux version since 2004, but only as a closed source VoIP client. The Internet telephony software is currently available as a Skype 2.1 beta (see farther below). Now a Skype blog post has confirmed rumors that the company is working on an open source client for Linux, but the open source nature appears to refer only to the UI layer, not the underlying source code.

In a Skype blog post, "Bergus" writes, "Yes, there's an open source version of Linux client being developed. This will be a part of larger offering, but we can't tell you much more about that right now. Having an open source UI will help us get adopted in the 'multicultural' land of Linux distributions, as well as on other platforms and will speed up further development. We will update you once more details are available."

According to Markus Goebel, writing in TechCrunch Europe, the blog posting was a response to a previous technical support answer to question from French user named Olivier Faurax, who later publicized the exchange. After Faurax asked about the potential availability of a Skype for Mandriva Linux, the Skype support representative was said to have acknowledged that there was no Mandriva-specific version.

According to Goebel, the support rep then let the cat out of the bag by writing, "We are happy to be able to inform you that Skype will from now on be part of the open source community. Therefore Linux developers will be enabled to influence the development of the Skype client for Linux - which will most certainly result in specific versions for the different distributions."

After a subsequent request for clarification, the rep was said to have responded, "The Linux Skype version will become open source in the nearest future."

How much can you do with the UI?

Even if the open source release extends only to the UI layer, as Bergus later appears to clarify, a story in The H suggests that this will be enough for "desktop developers to create front ends using their preferred GUI tool kit." In addition, says the story, "developers could also optimize it for various mobile devices, such as Netbooks and smart phones."

Goebel appears to disagree, however, noting that without full Skype source code, developers would not have access to the "crucial" protocols that would be needed, for example, for voice transmission through firewalls.

He notes, however, that although he opposes Skype's reticence to fully support open source, their motivations are not without reason. "Everyone wants to eat from Skype's lunch," he writes. "That's why they're treading so carefully with open source."

Skype 2.1 beta for Linux

Skype's 2.1 beta version for Linux (pictured at right) is touted for its higher quality video and "super wideband" audio using a SILK codec, both previously available on Windows and Mac versions. (Ah, the rewards of being "multicultural.")

Other additions include PulseAudio support, the ability to send SMS messages, and contact groups, says Skype. The company also mentions improvements to chat, including a typing indicator, new emoticons, and message editing.

In January, Skype announced it was beta-testing a "Moblin" version of its proprietary VoIP softphone, but the project does not appear to have reached fruition. In addition, Skype has been ported to Maemo Linux on the Nokia N800/N810 Tablets, although not yet, it seems, for the new N900 smartphone. Skype's Java version has been available for a number of Linux mobile phones.


Skype 2.1 beta for Linux is available for free download now, here, for Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10+, Debian Lenny, Fedora 9 and 10+, OpenSUSE 11+, and as a Dynamic Static download.

The Skype blog posting confirming an upcoming "open source" client for Linux may be found here. The TechCrunch Europe story on the announcement should be here, and the story in The H should be here.

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