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Skype Protocol Has Been Reverse Engineered

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the limited-victory dept.

Communications 231

An anonymous reader writes "One researcher has decided he wants to make Skype open source by reverse engineering the protocol the service uses. In fact, he claims to have already achieved that feat on a new skype-open-source blog. The source code has been posted for versions 1.x/3.x/4.x of Skype as well as details of the rc4 layer arithmetic encoding the service uses. While his intention may be to recreate Skype as an open source platform, it is doubtful he will get very far without facing an army of Microsoft lawyers. Skype is not an open platform, and Microsoft will want to keep it that way."

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231 comments

Microsoft Office is not an open platform either (5, Interesting)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323974)

And yet we have several programs that can read/write to Office files. It seems the same could be done with MS Skype - call it OpenSkype or LibreSkype.

The only problem is the potential to be sued for theft-of-service (making calls w/o paying).

Re:Microsoft Office is not an open platform either (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324136)

Unless there is a substantial amount of client-trusting going on(which would be incredibly stupid; but not entirely out of the question given that Skype makes heavy use of random machines running Skype to save the operator bandwidth and machine time), I suspect that having the protocol won't be of too much use for theft of service. Even using a 3rd party client, you'd still need credentials tied to an account with money in it, and Skype can always bounce you at the points where their network meets the POTS/Cell system.

Again, unless analysis of the protocol reveals deep, exploitable, flaws I'm guessing that MS won't care too much. The world already has at least one born-open VOIP protocol(SIP), quite possibly several, and those haven't been a deep threat to Skype because they are comparatively hard for neophytes to set up, have firewall issues, etc. Heck, Microsoft bought Skype despite having a voice chat system in MSN. Voice chat over the internet, while not trivial, just isn't some super trade secret, nor is it what makes Skype a contender.

Now, given the reports of how slimy and secretive the Skype binary can be, I'd be happy to see an open implementation; but I suspect that the possibility won't rock the boat from MS' perspective...

Re:Microsoft Office is not an open platform either (5, Interesting)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325126)

Now, given the reports of how slimy and secretive the Skype binary can be, I'd be happy to see an open implementation; but I suspect that the possibility won't rock the boat from MS' perspective...

The strength of Skype is it's user base, that is why it was so expensive to MS. A messaging client is only as good as its user base. They bought skype for its users and market penetration and that it why it leaves everything else in it dust. If I could use a rival client to communicate with people on the skype network I would drop skype in a heartbeat, especially when I am using Linux as their Linux client it dire. Likewise the androids client. I will be very glad if this results in a rival client, ideally an open source one.

I do think however that Microsoft will already be screaming at an army of lawyers to shut this guy up quickly. You are entirely wrong when you say this will not rock the boat from their perspective, and you will see this in hours or days rather than weeks.

How about a real open protocol? (4, Insightful)

mailman-zero (730254) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323986)

Just because the protocol is reverse engineered doesn't make it open. I would rather see an open standard become supported or used by Skype/Microsoft.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324124)

No kidding! It's not like we don't have an open protocol that does the same thing. XMPP Jingle exists; reverse engineering Skype is just a pointless, useless, timewaste.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (3, Insightful)

doti (966971) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324262)

the question here is not the protocol/technology, but the userbase.

you can't use jingle to talk to all your friends running skype.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (0)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324402)

So you say, "Look, after this date, if you still want to call me, either pick up the phone or use XMPP." Set that date two or three months down the road so people have a transition window. By the way, this works for legacy IM systems like MSN, AIM, ICQ and Yahoo Messanger as well.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324582)

And when one of them says, "So what app can I use to video call you from my iPhone?", do you reply, "You shouldn't have got an iPhone!"?

Re:How about a real open protocol? (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324726)

Look, after this date, if you still want to call me, either pick up the phone or use XMPP.

And when one of them says, "So what app can I use to video call you from my iPhone?", do you reply, "You shouldn't have got an iPhone!"?

Yes. Being able to say "not my problem" is a powerful tool.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325010)

I believe the phrase is "not my mistake", not "not my problem", actually.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324860)

Yeah then I follow it up with. iPhone sux! Can't change the battery. What, are you an idiot?

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325182)

And when one of them says, "So what app can I use to video call you from my iPhone?", do you reply, "You shouldn't have got an iPhone!"?

He did mention "pick up the phone", although one could be forgiven for forgetting that the iPhone actually is a phone...

(not to mention there are plenty of XMPP apps on the App Store)

The biggest hurdle will be to convince people to use them simply to talk to one oddball.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (3, Insightful)

Jozza The Wick (1805012) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324644)

You think my sister or my not-very-computer-saavy parents are going to do that so I can continue to video chat with my niece in the UK? No. Understandably so (although of course I'd love them too), they have lots of other demands on their time. Plus, no motivation from their end. Why should they go through all that hassle (for them), just to maintain the status quo? No, what we really need is a open source client that can talk to native Skype clients. So this isn't a waste at all, for those using Skype with non-techy friends & family... It's the critical mass effect.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325032)

But ... you're their techie. You say, "Hey, we're going to use X now. Here is an installer for it, and I'll help you through setting it up." That's how you got them to set up to use Skype, right? If the purpose of the tool is videoconferencing over the internet (rather than low cost international calls), it seems like that should be sufficient.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (2)

Jozza The Wick (1805012) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325252)

Actually, no I didn't. My parents managed to do it by themselves. Because they wanted to skype with my sister and see my niece. Grandchildren are great motivators, I'm finding! I know they wouldn't have managed it just to see my ugly mug :) I still can't believe my dad managed to set it up since he regularly confuses Windows, the internet and Internet Explorer. But he did. And I live an ocean away from them. And I'd need to switch my sister, my parents, my brother-in-law's parents and anyone else my parents and sister talk to. For no real incremental benefit for them. So again, no real compelling reason for them to switch. Hence the need for an open source client so at least I communicate with them... perhaps set up for them next time I'm back there, if it works well enough for me...

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324714)

Yep. I told that to the people at my company too... You hiring? (Note: That was a joke. But with some truth on the side.)

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325112)

So you say, "Look, after this date, if you still want to call me, either pick up the phone or use XMPP." Set that date two or three months down the road so people have a transition window. By the way, this works for legacy IM systems like MSN, AIM, ICQ and Yahoo Messanger as well.

Forever Alone...

What, do you think your friends and family are just going to switch to something they don't even understand just to talk to someone who acts like he's the Queen of England? Of course not. They'll still use the phone, but if they are heavy Skype/MSN/AIM/etc. users, they simply won't do so as much. Maybe that's what you really want anyway?

Re:How about a real open protocol? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324168)

SIP.

Oh, wait, you needed to talk to somebody who is using Skype. Shit.

Network effects are a nuisance; but you just can't dismiss them. It would, indeed, be rather perverse to use reverse-engineered secret protocols as the basis for new systems where open ones are available(SIP, XMPP, etc, etc.); but if you want to interact with the userbase of a proprietary protocol your options are either to reverse engineer it, or to accept whatever T and Cs the proprietary software decides to impose.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324744)

Why not make a SIP / Skype Gateway and sell the service / product? Why not market it as "universal" VOIP client.

It might make transitioning away from Skype to SIP much easier.

Where people see a problem, I see opportunity.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325284)

Why not make a SIP / Skype Gateway and sell the service / product? Why not market it as "universal" VOIP client.

It might make transitioning away from Skype to SIP much easier.

Where people see a problem, I see opportunity.

So did Fring, look what happened.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324974)

Entertainingly, Microsoft's Netmeeting worked quite well as a voice/video SIP client back in the day. Of course, nobody* used it. Skype on the other hand is completely useless for connecting to standards-based chat/voice/video clients, but it has a huge user base.

Welcome to marketing.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324272)

+1

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

kpoole55 (1102793) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324382)

Problem is that Microsoft might start with an open standard then they'll add proprietary extensions that will make the open standard less open. They tried it with Internet Explorer and fortunately didn't quite succeed although it took years for an alternative to really take a foothold.

No, I rather not see a truly open standard be created only to become corrupted by Microsoft. Better to have a truly open standard and client that also is compatible with the Skype protocol through reverse engineering so they cannot claim copyright infringement. They can argue trade secrets but that hasn't stopped the creation of other tools compatible with Microsoft data formats.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (1)

lalleglad (39849) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325016)

"I would rather see an open standard become supported or used by Skype/Microsoft."

Yes, I agree, and with the knowledge of the history of Microsoft I would have to add:

"I would like to see the extinction of World hunger, end of all wars and a beautiful woman to all men, and vice versa, but ..."

that is not going to happen until Hell freezes over!

Or Microsoft runs out of money.

Re:How about a real open protocol? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36325216)

If a multi-protocol VOIP client can support Skype and something open, then Skype's network effects can be greatly weakened. That's pretty much why most of IM conversations are on XMPP now: everyone was using clients that let them sign onto AIM and XMPP until some of them stopped bothering with signing into AIM. Of course, XMPP has the advantage of being a strictly better protocol; it is not obvious what advantages Skype's open competitors offer over Skype. Maybe the option to securely encrypt calls? I doubt that is actually a killer app, but some people certainly want it.

Why I hate patents (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323988)

This is a perfect example of how little effort it takes to develop something like this and how easily a community could maintain it for the world to use but companies have to protect their billions

Re:Why I hate patents (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324026)

Oh yeah it was so freaking easy thats why there is a wildly popular service just like it for free and nobody is worried about MS taking Skype away from Linux and Apple.

Re:Why I hate patents (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324768)

What? Whatever you're smoking, please share.

The ease of developing a tool has nothing to do with whether or not it is popular. They're completely unconnected. Ease of use might have something to do with it, but ease of development is entirely unrelated. VOIP apps ARE easy to develop. Encrypted voice apps ARE easy to develop (once you've converted the analog audio to digital audio you can apply any encryption algorithm you like with whatever key-exchange protocol you like). Getting a large userbase on a given standard is one part luck, two parts MBA-bullshit--as I said, entirely unrelated.

Re:Why I hate patents (5, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325352)

Ease of use might have something to do with it, but ease of development is entirely unrelated.

Thank you for so succinctly summing up the single greatest problem with Linux and most other open source software.

Ease of use *IS* part of development. It's just as much a requirement as any other technical aspect.

Also, like most nerds, you have vastly underestimated the difficulty in developing an application. It's easy to whiteboard a simple voice chat app, and *fairly* simple to create some sort of intercom-type chat program. But once you start adding things like central directories, low-latency variable bandwidth calling over the internet, and the like, you end up with difficulty even coming up with a reasonable whiteboard outline, and the actual implementation becomes quite difficult. By no means impossible, but it's not something you'll bang out over a weekend and be on par with something like Skype.

As awful as Skype may be, just because you understand the idea behind how it works doesn't mean it's easy to duplicate. This is a classic nerd mistake.

Re:Why I hate patents (1)

imric (6240) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325056)

Google voice? libjingle? sip and pbxs.org with google voice?

So don't worry about Skype being taken away by MS - be annoyed at MS behavior, yes. Remember that they have NOT changed their ways, just their PR.

But don't be worried.

Re:Why I hate patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324096)

Reverse engineering an existing system does not demonstrate how little effort it took to develop the existing system.

Re:Why I hate patents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324114)

This is a perfect example of a community that again proves itself incapable of actually inventing anything, and instead just copies what someone else has done.

Re:Why I hate patents (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324158)

This is a perfect example of a community that again proves itself incapable of actually inventing anything, and instead just copies what someone else has done.

Because there's never been an open source voice protocol.

The issue with open source VOIP is not technical, but financial. You can easily set up voice calls over the Internet, but once you want to hook that into the telephone system it becomes much more complex and expensive.

Re:Why I hate patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324354)

Because there's never been an open source voice protocol.

Even if there was can you name a single one that has even 1/10th the userbase of skype?

Re:Why I hate patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36325224)

The protocol would be SIP, and the projects would be Asterisk and it's various forks and related projects.

Re:Why I hate patents (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324176)

This is a perfect example of a community that again proves itself incapable of actually inventing anything, and instead just copies what someone else has done.

Exactly which "community" do you mean?

Do Facetime instead... (2)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323990)

Facetime has much better video quality for low-bandwidth connections, and there is no Window's application for it. That would be a better target.

Re:Do Facetime instead... (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324040)

Facetime also isn't encrypted, just slightly obfuscated. It's just a regular SIP connection with an Apple-hosted HTTP-based lookup service that ties SIP URIs to emails or phone numbers.

Re:Do Facetime instead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324132)

Facetime requires Traveltime though, and I'm not willing to dish out the service cost for Traveltime. :)

Presumptious much?? (1)

nicholas22 (1945330) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323994)

Microsoft did not threaten any Kinect hackers when they reversed that protocol...

Re:Presumptious much?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324024)

Microsoft doesn't make money off the Kinect as a service, they still sell the device itself to everyone who's using it. If anything, they're selling more because of it.

Re:Presumptious much?? (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324094)

I think at first they were against it, but after they saw how it was taking off they decided to ride the PR wave.

In the case of Skype, it benefits from network effects; as more people use it, more people want to use it. So if MS ultimately doesn't want to spend resources to support a small userbase like Linux, maybe it would be beneficial for them to let a minority of people access the service through an unauthorized third party.

Re:Presumptious much?? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325008)

Try hacking the Live service protocol and tell me how Microsoft reacts.

PS I'm not actually recommending you break the law. Just trying to make people think.

Patents can be avoided and new servers created (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36323998)

This could be the Skype killer we have been wishing for. It doesn't have to work with Skype, it just has to be as good as Skype and to be open. Imagine people being able to set up their own private Skype-like servers for personal and business use... even for home-monitoring uses and more. Skype will undoubtedly kill support for Linux and probably restrict access in a variety of ways. While being able to access Skype servers and services would be desirable, I wouldn't expect that to be allowed to work and would end up as the arms race we saw previously in instant messaging. (One that I think was ultimately lost or abandoned by those trying to fight 3rd party clients.) But if a truly free and open Skype-like set of clients and servers were made available, a lot of useful things can occur.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324146)

It doesn't have to work with Skype, it just has to be as good as Skype and to be open.

I don't think that's true - there are a number of other video conferencing products out there, some are open, others are not, but as long as Skype continues to work on Windows/Mac and is free, there's not much reason for most people to switch.

Imagine people being able to set up their own private Skype-like servers for personal and business use

I'd be surprised if significant numbers of people set up their own servers - small businesses aren't likely to have the time (or desire) to set up their own servers, large businesses don't care if they have to pay (and many probably already use OCS/Lync)

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324166)

A lot of work is being done on standardizing microphone, webcam and P2P support in browsers and it looks inevitable that there will eventually be lots of ways to speak to people directly on the web. Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, Gmail and so on will have it built-in. Even Slashdot will probably have it eventually, although that is a vile and horrible idea...

Where was I?

Yes, right. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when we will have ubiquitous P2P voice and video on the web. Non-web solutions would probably be useful in some scenarios too, but the free software community is late to the table.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324222)

GMail has it since a long long long time ago...

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324318)

Yes, but if voice and video becomes standardized and easy to set up on the web every site with a community aspect, not just the big ones, will have a widget that you can use to talk to other members of the same community.

The need for standalone VoIP apps would shrink.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324170)

It's a long way from "We have the protocol" to "It's as good as Skype." Most of what makes Skype "good" is infrastructure investments. Even if we can deliver a point-to-point application that's every bit as "good" as Skype, it's not any better than Linphone unless the rest of the infrastructure is in place to support all the features that Skype does.

There are numerous open programs that can provide point to point voice or video chat. Some of them are even pretty good. But without a lot of supporting servers and PSTN termination, they're pretty much useless to your average user who'd want to use Skype.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324238)

"As good as" won't do. It would have to be much better.

Here's why:
Normally, Skype works, also, a lot of my friends use it. So, I'm quite happy with it. To get me to switch to another system (and to somehow persuade my friends to do it too, since if I'm the only one using the new system it's not very useful) the new system has to be much better than skype. Being "open" is not a high priority - Skype is available for Windows and Linux, I do not need to pay for it (legally), so I will not try to write my own client.

So, there is no point for me to switch to another system (and convince all my friends to do the same) if all I'm going to end up with will be "as good as Skype". I can use Skype without all that additional effort of switching.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (0)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324356)

Exactly. Slashdotters seem to have an irrational fear against anything touched by MS, and feel dirty having the client even on their machine. For the rest of us, we don't give a damn who owns the company as long as the service works.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324464)

Yea, if another service is much better than Skype, then people will gradually switch to it.

For example, people are ditching IE and using other browsers because they are better. Not a lot of people would use a browser that was "the same as IE, but open source".

With networks (like Skype) this is more difficult since you need to convince your friends to switch, but it can be done. There were other VoIP services before Skype, but they were worse than Skype. Also, some IM services, like ICQ are no longer used as much as they were.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324660)

Exactly. Slashdotters seem to have an irrational fear against anything touched by MS

There's nothing irrational about it. MS, like most other big companies, have proved many times that they can be both evil and incompetent.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324800)

Exactly. Slashdotters seem to have an irrational fear against anything touched by MS

There's nothing irrational about it. MS, like most other big companies, have proved many times that they can be both evil and incompetent.

Okay but how is Skype an example of this? It becomes irrational when you allow your fears to blind you.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (2)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324296)

It's the network stupid

If I have 20 friends on Skype and 1 friend on OpenSkype, I am going to get Skype. It doesn't matter if something else is more secure, open or faster if you have no one else to talk to.

The only way an open source version of Skype will be successful is if it is compatible with Skype's existing network of users.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324410)

I would get both, assuming OpenSkype is lightweight and sits quietly in the background except when my one friend on OpenSkype calls me.

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324414)

the real thing that makes skype special apart form running teamspeak or whatever chat solution from '90s.. is outside calls. that will always need a negotiating party with someone. of course now I think it's against skypes rules to sell outside calls? I'm not sure about that, but it would be pretty easy to sell outside calls from skype now too if you could beat the local rates(if you could do that to conflict hot spots you could get quite a bit of business though).

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324530)

It doesn't have to work with Skype, it just has to be as good as Skype and to be open.

Yes, it has to work with Skype. What makes Skype good is its users. If you can't call any of the millions of people that have Skype, what good is it?

<sarcasm>I mean, look how fast Diaspora [wikipedia.org] took off as an open source alternative to Facebook!</sarcasm>

Re:Patents can be avoided and new servers created (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324546)

This could be the Skype killer we have been wishing for.

We? Not me.

It doesn't have to work with Skype, it just has to be as good as Skype and to be open. Imagine people being able to set up their own private Skype-like servers for personal and business use...

That sounds like a real pain in the ass, i.e. you need a lot of IT hours to get it to work and keep it working. No thanks.

Vanilla Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324002)

in 2006 at RECON, 2 guys from EADS presented on that subject:
http://recon.cx/en/f/vskype-part1.pdf
http://recon.cx/en/f/vskype-part2.pdf

Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324004)

It's protected. Lawyers may bark, and pound a table or two, but ultimately, they'll fail.

Sec. 103(f) of the DMCA (17 U.S.C. 1201 (f)) says that if you legally obtain a program that is protected, you are allowed to reverse-engineer [wikipedia.org] and circumvent the protection to achieve the ability the interoperability of computer programs

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324234)

It is, however they can sometimes shake something out that prevents the exemption from applying. Projects which rely upon reverse engineering have to be very careful that they properly shield themselves from information which might make the immunity go bye bye

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (2)

dandaman32 (1056054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324268)

That refers to copyright law (or at least the US's convoluted idea of it). The reverse engineer is within the DMCA, but that doesn't matter if he's violating patents -- if, in fact, he's in a country that has software patents (i.e., the US). As some redditors pointed out, his lack of fluency in English seems to suggest otherwise.

If he is in the US, he can still be sued for violating the patents Microsoft owns on the protocol, although I think Microsoft is less likely to be evil about it than the other former candidate buyers.

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (1)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324278)

Don't you have to do this in a prescribed fashion involving two teams, one to write a formal spec (with access to the original) and then hand that spec off to a second group that must work entirely off the spec? If this procedure was not followed the results would be tainted.

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324798)

Only if someone actually had internal knowledge of the original implementation.

Unless they've actually got a Skype engineer on their team, none of them have any knowledge of the internal details and are by definition only reverse-engineering

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324310)

Not to mention that the DMCA fails to apply at all in places like Russia.

(il)legality has nothing to do with it (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324392)

The real question is does the "offender" has the financial resource to defend it. Large corporations have very deep pocket and army of lawyers. Does (s)he?

Re:(il)legality has nothing to do with it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324532)

Such tactics might work in the US but not in the civilized world.

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324416)

... and they'll also bankrupt you while in court. Right or wrong, normal people can very rarely afford to go up against giant megacorporations.

Re:Reverse-Engineering for Interoperability (1)

chemosh6969 (632048) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324602)

It's a good thing you didn't cut out the rest of what it says....oh wait, you did and that actually changes the meaning of the snippet you posted. To continue where you left off: (i.e., the ability to exchange and make use of information). The section states: (f) Reverse Engineering.— (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a)(1)(A), a person who has lawfully obtained the right to use a copy of a computer program may circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a particular portion of that program for the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program that are necessary to achieve interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and that have not previously been readily available to the person engaging in the circumvention, to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title. (2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a)(2) and (b), a person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure, in order to enable the identification and analysis under paragraph (1), or for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such interoperability, to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title. (3) The information acquired through the acts permitted under paragraph (1), and the means permitted under paragraph (2), may be made available to others if the person referred to in paragraph (1) or (2), as the case may be, provides such information or means solely for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title or violate applicable law other than this section. (4) For purposes of this subsection, the term interoperability means the ability of computer programs to exchange information, and of such programs mutually to use the information which has been exchanged.

FTFA (4, Insightful)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324008)

The remaining question to ask is what’s the point of doing this reverse engineering? Skype is a free-to-use service for the most part. You do pay for non Skype-to-Skype calls, and have to use the official software, but is that really enough to make users desire an alternative?

Yes.

Re:FTFA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324154)

Wow +5 Insightful for this comment. Do you have any more where that came from? Christ.

Re:FTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324184)

The remaining question to ask is what’s the point of doing this reverse engineering? Skype is a free-to-use service for the most part. You do pay for non Skype-to-Skype calls, and have to use the official software, but is that really enough to make users desire an alternative?

There are many platforms that don't have a skype client, such as blackberry.

(Yes, there is official skype software for Verizon blackberries. It checks the handset's home carrier and won't run on others)

Re:FTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324204)

Yes because different applications need to interoperate over a common api. Imagine having to to run AOL IM, MSN, Skype, IRC, and other client programs to communicate with everyone you know... It takes up unnecessary resources and requires the user to know 5 times as many interfaces.

Re:FTFA (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324208)

There is much more to that. The skype protocol being unknown made people wonder what is actually going through the network. Some institute such as INRIA (A french research institute in computer science) forbid the use of skype partly for this reason. As far as we knew, skype might piggyback some request for computation and "steal" some CPU time to sell it. Knowing the protocol should clear that out.

Heh - bad timing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324012)

Not only that, but reverse engineering the encryption of the protocol...wouldn't that open the doors to people "listening in" to calls?

Re:Heh - bad timing... (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324152)

No. You do realize most encryption algorithms are published for all to see, right? Unless Skype is doing something very stupid in the key exchange, it's just as secure as before.

Reverse engineering for interoperability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324082)

Reverse engineering for interoperability reasons is explicitly allowed under US copyright law.

And of course, the USA doth not the whole world make.

booo ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324108)

No worries. In the US its not illegal to reverse engineer protocols for compatibility.

Sec. 103(f) of the DMCA (17 U.S.C. 1201 (f)) says that if you legally obtain a program that is protected, you are allowed to reverse-engineer and circumvent the protection to achieve the ability the interoperability of computer programs (i.e., the ability to exchange and make use of information). The section states:

Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324206)

Skype is locked up in Microsoft land. People should focus their attention on something that's actually open, like Jitsi [jitsi.org].

Re:Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324520)

Jitsi blows. Skype does not. This is the only thing that matters.

Re:Waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324972)

Hardly. There's still anal, double penetration, fisting, and threesomes to consider.

Just the facts, man. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324214)

I thought we had already established that Interfaces to data formats (such as a protocol) consisted of only facts. These facts can not be copyrighted.

To me it seems MS will simply follow their standard procedure of "Embrace (purchase and/or adopt a standard), Extend (introduce incompatibilities), and thereby Extinguish." to thwart any sort of open source implementations.

Similar to their Zune device, which has embraced a standard USB interface and media protocol, but has been extended with a DRM challenge & response system to extinguish the possibility of any software but Microsoft's being used with the Zune.

IMHO, since Skype is actually a distributed Peer to Peer system (where some peers are used as relays or to coordinate NAT traversal for other peers), why not simply ditch Skype and create our own low cost system? Some type of PGP like system can be used to implement a distributed authentication/registration system, and perhaps Asterisk [asterisk.org] could be in our own homes (w/ landlines) to provide outgoing phone calls. Recent laws have made me wary of allowing others to out-dial from my node (to a select group of local area codes), but it is a type of solution that that we used in the BBS days...

Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324236)

Microsoft has been forced to release protocol and API information as part of anti-trust settlements. Would this not also apply to subsequent Microsoft acquisitions? Microsoft really isn't in a very strong position regarding proprietary protocols. Also, reverse engineering is legal.

Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36324332)

Please stop calling every single person who is tinkering with code a 'researcher'...

Re:Title (1)

Jahava (946858) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324390)

Please stop calling every single person who is tinkering with code a 'researcher'...

Researcher [answers.com]: One who conducts research.

Did he conduct research? Yes.

Then he is a researcher.

Please don't feed the *patent* trolls. (0)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324776)

Fantastic yet another open-source knock off clone of something proprietary that is just going to kick a hornet's nest of patent trolls and lawyers. Instead of that, how about a clean-sheet fully-original independant open alternative?

In software there is a Jazillion ways to solve a problem and it's doubtful the incumbent solution is the very best, why do you need to copy or reverse engineer anything in the software world except for lack of creativity, inspiration and originality?

It's perfectly ok of course to admit your ripping off an algorithim because you can't come up with something better, and want to make a statement by slapping an open licence on your rip off.

It'll never catch on of course, because a reverse-engineered skype protocol it can't be used in any major project because of the aforementioned hord of rabid lawyers.

OSS can do it's own thing, and can do it very well. There are sucess stories of originality from Firefox to BitTorrent and others. Just please not another me-too project that sets open software back a couple of years in terms of widespread acceptance.

Please don't feed the patent trolls.

Re:Please don't feed the *patent* trolls. (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#36324962)

In software there is a Jazillion ways to solve a problem and it's doubtful the incumbent solution is the very best, why do you need to copy or reverse engineer anything in the software world except for lack of creativity, inspiration and originality?

Reverse engineering is an absolute necessity for compatibility, and compatibility is often an absolute necessity for success. Being the best product often isn't enough.

Re:Please don't feed the *patent* trolls. (2)

CFTM (513264) | more than 2 years ago | (#36325290)

Emerson was the first one to popularize the myth that if one were to "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door", and yes for the pedants out there I realize this is a misquotation of what Emerson really said, but the juice of it is a maxim that many individuals use to understand the process of innovation. Unfortunately, when observed through the lens of history, the maxim does not hold water.

The truth about innovation is that it occurs when the right mix of entities are brought together in a way that has never been done before to create a distinct advantage in the market. To illustrate this point, look at what Henry Ford did with the Model-T and how he altered the landscape of factories throughout the world. He didn't invent new technologies, he took technologies being utilized in other industries and adapted them for his needs. Thereby allowing for a streamlined factory where metal came in one end, and completed cars came out the other end. There are many entities involved in innovation and I've merely down a fly-over of what Henry Ford did, but I think it helps to illustrate the point that I was making at the beginning ... Being the best product is never enough.

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