The creators of the popular file-sharing program Kazaa are stepping into a new direction with their peer-to-peer technology: free telephone calls over the Internet.
Using Kazaa, users can download music and movies without paying a fee. Now they can use Skype, a new free peer-to-peer telephony application, to make unlimited worldwide phone calls.
Niklas Zennstrom, chief executive officer of Skype and the former CEO of Kazaa, who attended the University in 1989, said Skype will completely alter the way telephone calls are made in the future.
“Many college students will use Skype to make phone calls instead of the good old phone system – why wouldn’t they? Skype is free,” Zennstrom said. He added that the service is easy to use and the sound quality is crystal clear, better than the telephone.
Free phone calls over the Internet are not something new. Similar services such as Net2Phone can make Internet telephone calls for a cost. Instant messenging programs such as ICQ and Yahoo Messenger can make free telephone calls like Skype can, but their sound quality is not as clear as Skype. Skype is the first Internet telephone service to use peer-to-peer technology.
Zennstrom and his associates decided to create Skype after the tremendous success of Kazaa. “We were looking around for the next area where peer-to-peer (technology) could have an impact and we thought that peer-to-peer could solve the problems that previous Internet telephony solutions have faced,” Zennstrom said.
Although Skype’s main function provides users with free telephone calls, Skype also acts as an instant messenging program. A user can see who is online and send text messages to them, Zennstrom added.
LSA senior and computer science major Albert Bertram said there are many Internet telephone services, but they are not widely used. However, Bertram added, “They could become very popular since the technology for them has improved.”
Though the Skype program was released only three weeks ago, the new software has already been downloaded more than 160,000 times, according to the product’s website.
“Skype is just a short and easy name,” Zennstrom said, “But people are already starting to say, ‘I’ll Skype you,’ which mean I’ll call you over Skype.”
While both Kazaa and Skype use the same peer-to-peer technology, Skype users do not have to worry about facing legal charges. “We have looked into the regulatory situation for Skype and there are no international laws that forbid people to make phone calls to each other over the Internet,” Zennstrom said.
Zennstrom was also concerned about the recent lawsuits against Kazaa file-sharers. “I think it’s very sad to see an industry turn on their consumers, and then starts to mass sue them, when these people only want to get access to music over the Internet on decent terms. These people are not criminals – the record companies just have not listened to them.”