[FSFE PR][EN] How to break free from Skype - Avoid being locked in as Microsoft turns off Windows Messenger

Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Tue Apr 2 13:33:35 CEST 2013

= How to break free from Skype - Avoid being locked in as Microsoft turns off
Windows Messenger ==

[read online: http://fsfe.org/news/2013/news-20130402-01.en.html]

On April 8, Microsoft will discontinue its Windows Messenger service. All
current users will be switched to Skype. The Free Software Foundation Europe
advises former users of Windows Messenger to take this as an opportunity to
embrace Open Standards [1] such as Jabber (XMPP) instead of switching to Skype.

"Crucial technology should not be controlled by a single entity, but instead
rely on the sort of Open Standards that have made the Internet great" says
Matthias Kirschner of FSFE. "MSN users should switch to Open Standard
technologies, like the XMPP protocol, and Free Software chat  programs [2]."
The Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP, previously called
Jabber) is widely deployed across the Internet. This standard is not closed or
secret; it is governed by an independent foundation with many stakeholders
[3]. It can be implemented in any software, and not only gives users the
choice of which client to use, but also which servers to trust. By switching
all users to Skype, Microsoft is replacing one locked down technology with
another. Acquired by Microsoft in 2011, the proprietary Skype software is
widely used for audio and video communication, as well as chatting. Its
workings are secret and substantial efforts are made to prevent reverse
engineering [4].

Skype's services have serious drawbacks. Their closed,
secured-through-obscurity [5] protocol takes freedom away from users. Skype's
technology forces people to join the walled garden in order to keep
communicating with others, and locks them in. It also makes oversight and
checks by communities or independent experts nearly impossible.

"Microsoft and Skype have absolute control over all communications going
through their network," says FSFE's Torsten Grote. "Once aggregated, the power
given to Skype by each individual user endangers freedom on a global scale.
Skype is already abusing this power with attacks on privacy [6], data
retention [7], censorship [8/8b] and eavesdropping [9]." The ability to
communicate freely is vital, and this is just what Open Standards-driven
communication methods such as XMPP provide. People that have the ability to
run their own XMPP server are strongly encouraged to do so. The more
distributed the XMPP network is, the more resistant it is to censorship and

People who prefer not to run their own server are invited to use an XMPP
service provider that they trust. FSFE, for example, provides a XMPP server
for all their Fellows. "The technology that we rely on should never be
controlled by only one entity. Ideally we all control it together. We should
be careful not to build new walled gardens." says Grote. "Most companies
already agree on XMPP. Only the companies that want to lock-in their users go
their own way on this. Even Facebook uses XMPP, but unfortunately they still
don't allow their users to talk to people outside of Facebook."

How to move to a Free Software chat solution based on Open Standards :
        1. Download a free client [2]
        2. Install it and start it
        3. If you don't have an existing XMPP account, log in to one of the
many public XMPP services [10] using your preferred username. Your client will
automatically create the account
        4. Add your contacts
        5. Start chatting with others on the XMPP network!

Contact information:
    Torsten Grote
    Torsten.Grote at fsfe.org

[1]  http://fsfe.org/activities/os/def.en.html
[2]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Free_XMPP_clients
[3]  http://xmpp.org/
[4]  http://secdev.org/conf/skype_BHEU06.pdf
[5]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_through_obscurity
[6]  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/02/technology/internet/02skype.html?_r=0
[7]  http://www.skype.com/en/legal/privacy/#collectedInformation
[8]  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/875630d4-cef9-11da-925d-0000779e2340.html
[10] http://xmpp.net/

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues,
  securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people
  Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues
  of the FSFE.

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