Skype Crashing and Supernodes

Sometimes Christmas comes a few days early.  Forgive me for the Schadenfreude, but the fact that PC Mag, TechCrunch, GigaOm, BBC News, and so many other outlets discussed the BUSINESS IMPLICATIONS of Skype’s crash yesterday amuses me.  To quote Om Malik from GigaOm:

…over past few years it has become part of the economic fabric for startups and small businesses around the world. I am not sure we can comprehend the productivity cost of this outage….

The outage comes at a time when Skype is starting to ask larger corporations for their business. If I am a big business, I would be extremely cautious about adopting Skype for business, especially in the light of this current outage.

Extremely cautious indeed.  To make things worse (in my book, anyway), this forced the public discussion of ‘supernodes’ to come out.  Skype acknowledged the supernodes act as directories, and that there was a an issue with some Skype versions (a conflict perhaps?) that caused a bunch of supernodes to not work.  To fix it, Skype is creating ‘MEGA-SUPERNODES’!  I am not kidding one bit.  It sounds like an anime uber-weapon.

This is so wrong in multiple ways.  a) People who experienced processing and network problems after downloading Skype often discovered they were unwittingly a supernode whether they wanted to be or not.  This is potentially a privacy, security AND ownership (of bandwidth and CPU use) issue.  [update: the more recent versions do allow you to turn this off]  b) If people experienced poor other-than-Skype performance as supernodes, who knows what the experience will be for mega-supernodes.  (I’m eagerly awaiting mega-super-galactic-power-nodes.  That’ll be awesome!!!)  c)  I think it’s safe to say that spreading the public directory across a number of private computers is NOT a reliable alternative to redundant hosted public directories that are unaffected by version changes…as most point-to-point services (*ahem*) do.

So, if you’re a business, and you need video calling, why use the guys without certified security, without redundant hosted directories, without collaborative tools (desktop screenshots do NOT count), with supernodes and mega-supernodes, when we have a loooong list of competitors (aside from us) on our blog and homepage that you can choose from instead?

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