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Skype feedback

May 24, 20043 mins

* Readers weigh in on Skype

Our newsletters a couple of weeks ago generated more feedback than usual – and it seems that most readers either thought Skype-type peer-to-peer programs were the greatest thing since sliced bread or an absolute abomination.

We certainly touched on a sensitive topic.

One reader wrote to say, “I’ve read your reviews and looked at the Web site, but I’m not convinced to allow this on a business laptop.” This is good. You should make that decision on your own, because we certainly weren’t endorsing or recommending Skype. Rather, we were pointing out that we think the capability is quite interesting and one that you should be aware of.

There also was considerable concern about the founders of Skype – and in particular the fact that they were the developers of Kazaa. The reader above continued, “I remember Kazaa as a spyware program that was popping up adds and presumably tracking usage and whatever other mischief it was up to and how difficult it was to uninstall. Is this Skype free of spyware? If it is, then what’s in it for them? What is the business model? I am not dumb enough to believe that it really is free.”

We think he raises an interesting question regarding “spyware.” By our definition of spyware, we don’t think Skype actually has spyware installed. However, googling “spyware” and “Skype” turned up some interesting commentary.

In particular, there seems to be interesting discussion around this phrase in Skype’s end user licensing agreement: “3. Permission to Utilize. In order to receive the benefits provided by the Skype Software, you hereby grant permission for the Skype Software to utilize the processor and bandwidth of your computer for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between other Skype Software users.” Some folks seem to interpret this as allowing spyware.

On the other hand, the next paragraph says: “You understand that the Skype Software will protect the privacy and integrity of your computer resources and communication and ensure the unobtrusive utilization of your computer resources to the greatest extent possible.” In our humble opinion, we think this is typical of how all peer-to-peer apps work. But it also brings the larger question to the forefront.

And we could go on for months about the availability of technology and how that technology is used. With almost any technology there are potentially positive and potentially negative applications. For instance, a peer-to-peer application like Kazaa could be (and is) used at times for illicit sharing of music files. But the same technology could be used for legitimately sharing business documents.

Tough call, isn’t it?