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BS Computer Engineering BS Computer Science Harding University firstname.lastname@example.org October 24th 2007
The purpose of this paper is to describe what Skype software does and how it is used over the internet.
3. SYSTEM AND SOFTWARE
Skype software can run in three different operating systems: Windows (2000, and XP), Mac OS X, and Linux. A nice feature that Skype has under a windows platform is its capability to run from a USB stick without installing it in the target machine. Besides having any of the three OS’ above, Skype also needs an internet connection, speakers, microphone, and a computer with at least 1 GHZ microprocessor, 256 MB of RAM and 50 MB of free disk space.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
J.m [Computer Applications]: Miscellaneous.
Documentation, and theory.
p2p , VoIP, SkypeOut, Client-Server architecture, bandwidth, user directory, NAT, Firewall, encryption
3.1 Skype Protocol
Skype has a p2p architecture which is the main difference with VoIP client systems such as Glophone, or GoogleTalk which use a traditional server-client model. Skype’s protocol architecture allows its user directory the ability to be 100% decentralized and distributed among the nodes in the network. In other words, its network is able to handle high number of users (today 240 million approximately) without a costly centralized and complex architecture.
Skype is a software that enables users to make calls anywhere in the world where internet is available. It includes many features such as file transfer, video conference, and SkypeOut which is calling from Skype to mobile and regular phones worldwide. Currently, Skype is well known for offering free and stable VoIP (voice over internet protocol) to other Skype users and affordable calling from a PC to a phone. However, this software has more advantages over a regular phone because it has better sound quality and it is highly secured. Skype encrypts all calls, chats and file transfers before sending them through the internet to protect them from unauthorized parties using p2p (peer –to-peer) technology.
3.1.1 P2P (Peer-to-Peer) Architecture
P2P technology was popularized and widely deployed by software programs like KazaA and Napster. A P2P system (refer to Figure 2) is one where all nodes in a given network participate dynamically in traffic routing, processing, and bandwidth intensive tasks that in other architecture model would be handled by central servers. Because peer-to-peer networks are decentralized, they have many advantages over client-server networks (refer to Figure 1). Some of those advantages are that p2p network can increase indefinably without increasing search time and cost of centralized resources. This type of network uses the processing power of end-users machines; thus, as the network increases, the processing power increases as well. In fact, each node added to the network adds bandwidth and potential processing power to the network.
2. BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Skype software was created in 2003 by two entrepreneurs: Niklas Zennström, and Janus Friis. Both of them are co-founders of KazaA peer-to-peer file sharing software over the network. In April of 2003 Skype.com and Skype.net domain names were registered. In August of 2003 the first public beta version was released. However, the Skype Group was acquired by eBay in September 2005 for €2.1 billion plus a potential performancebased consideration up to €1.2 billion in October 14, 2005. One important feature was added to Skype in December of 2005 when video telephony was introduced. By 2006, over 100 million people were using Skype. Finally, in August of 2007 Skype 3.1 is released with many additional features that include video content in chat, call transfer to another person or group, and auto-redial. Skype has headquarters in Luxembourg with offices in London, Tallin, Prague, Tartu, and California. They have different offices across the world so that they can handle their high number of users and they can keep growing.
Figure 1. Client-Server Architecture.
In the long run, by decentralizing resources, peer-to-peer architecture eliminates the high costs that large centralized infrastructures have. Because all of the potential that p2p networks have, p2p telephony was invented where Skype was the first to develop one.
guarantee to find a user if it exists and has logged in during the last 72 hours.
3.4 Intelligent Routing
Because Skype uses every available resource, it is able to route encrypted calls intelligently through the shortest path possible. Furthermore, this software keeps many connection paths open and chooses on the fly the best one.
Skype uses encryption of 128 bits to communicate between users, and according to them it is impossible to decrypt the content of these communications. The encryption system of this software is always on and cannot be turned off by the user. Thus far there is no known attack to Skype network. The Skype security policy is 1. All usernames must be unique 2. Before using Skype the user must present a username and a password 3. Each peer provides the other one with proof of its username and privileges whenever a session is established to communicate 4. Messages transmitted through a session are encrypted end-to-end; this way, no intermediary node has access to the meaning of the messages being transmitted.
Figure 2. Peer-to-peer architecture.
3.6 Skype Simple User Interface 3.2 Firewall and NAT (Network Address Translation)
Skype works in most gateways and firewalls without any special configuration. This software has new techniques that were developed to avoid end-user configuration of firewall and gateways. In order for users to run Skype behind firewalls, nonfirewalled clients and clients on publicly routable IP addresses help those NAT’ed or firewalled nodes to communicate by routing calls. This powerful technique lets two users, who otherwise would not be able to speak, the ability to communicate between them. Besides that, calls are encrypted end-to-end which makes proxies to limit the security risk. According to Skype, they have the best and simplest UI (refer to Figure 3) available of any other VoIP software programs because people who can use Windows and telephones will feel very comfortable using it. Furthermore, they say that this software works equally well on other platforms such as Linux and Mac OS X.
3.3 Skype Global Decentralized User Directory
On the one hand, most of the communication and instant messaging software required a centralized directory in order to establish a connection between end-users so that they can associate a username and identity with and IP number that usually changes. This change occurs because the user relocates or reconnects to a network with a dynamic IP address. In a centralized directory application, a tracking tool is used which logs each user and IP number and determines whether users are online or not. Central directories are very expensive when the number of users reaches the millions. On the other hand, a normal p2p network technology is not really suitable for a user directory. Peer-to-peer is decentralized and fragmented in nature and when a given search takes place in the network, it cannot reach all of the nodes in it. Therefore, Skype developed a third generation p2p technology for their global decentralized user directory called Global Index (GI) which also allows this software to deliver high quality telephony with the lowest possible expenses. The Global Index technology is a multi-tiered network with supernodes which are able to communicate in such a way that every node in the network knows about all of the resources and available users that can be reached in the lowest amount of time. According to Skype, using Global Index allows them to distribute search and they
Figure 3. Skype User Interface
4. USAGE AND TRAFFIC
Currently, the number of Skype users exceeds 245 million (refer to Table 1), and approximately 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 users are online at a given time (refer to Table 2 for more information). In 2005, Skype traffic was approximately 2.9% of international carrier traffic and 4.4% of total international traffic base of 264 billion minutes in 2006. Because of the intense usage of Skype, it produced around $66 million of net revenue in 2006 (refer to Table 1 for more information). Table 1. User accounts and net revenue
SkypeOut is a feature that lets users to call regular and mobile phones across the world for a fee. This fee ranges from $0.024 to $2.142 USD depending upon the country being called. Some of the main drawbacks about SkypeOut are that 1) 2) After 180 days without making any call, the balance expires. Quality of service is not guaranteed and dropouts, broken connections and compression distortion are frequently observed. SkypeOut does not support calling emergency numbers such as 112 in Europe and 911 in the USA.
5.2 Unlimited Calling Plan and Fees
Skype has a prepaid and unlimited call service for costumers in USA and Canada. They offer unlimited calls to any phone in North America for a one time-fee. They have two different options for the prepaid plan: $29.95 for 12 months, or $8.85 for 3 months. However, the calls must be made from any computer inside Canada and the USA.
This feature allows users to receive calls on their computers dialed by mobile or regular phones subscribers to a phone number local to Skype. In other words, it lets users to subscribe to numbers in many countries such as Mexico, France, Ireland, Guatemala, etc. For instance, a user in Searcy, AR could create a local telephone number in Guatemala. Thus, callers from Guatemala would pay only local rates to call that number.
Table 2. Number of users online
5.4 Skype Voice Mail
This is a paid service that Skype offers for the price of € 5 for 3 months or € 15 for the year. It allows users to record messages and to send them to their contacts while busy on another call, away, or simple indisposed. This is a great feature; however, it occasionally fails to record some incoming calls and Skype’s developers have not fixed it yet.
5.5 Skype Video Calling
On a Windows XP, Linux or Mac OS X machines, Skype offers videoconference making it a powerful software solution because it is one of the few programs that supports that feature across multiple platforms. In video calling, Skype only supports one-to-one video chat. However, multiple computers can talk at the same time, but only two can see video.
Skype offers a variety of features to make the customer experience as good as possible. Some of those features include SkypeOut, unlimited calling plan and fees, Skypeln, Skype voicemail, Skype video calling, and Skype SMS.
5.6 Skype SMS
Starting at version 2.5, Skype added the functionality to send SMS messages to mobile phones. This feature is very popular in other instant messenger software programs such as Windows Live Messenger or AOL instant messenger. This feature reduces the significantly the costs of a standard SMS message sent from a
mobile. According to Skype, in most countries the cost will be reduced to half the price that otherwise had to be paid using a mobile. Even though costs go down, if the receiver of the message is in roaming, the message will not be delivered. This would not happen using a standard mobile to send a SMS message.
6.2.2 France 2005
The French Ministry of Research in September of 2005 disapproved the use of Skype in higher education and research institutions.
6.2.3 United States, CALEA 2006
6. LEGAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES
Currently, Skype faces two main problems with regard to intellectual property and political concerns. On the one hand, Skype’s technology is known to intrude upon other parties’ copyrights and patents and their software is proprietary and closed. Because of this, Skype faces many challenges from other parties. On the other hand, governments that want to regulate and control telecommunication systems in their countries are concerning about all the freedom of communication that Skype allows to its users.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), in May of 2006 made a law to enforce wiretapping on digital networks. However, Skype is not compliant to this law, and its CEO, Zennstrom, stated that they will not plan to comply with it.
6.2.4 United Arab Emirates 2006
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) blocked abruptly in 2006 Skype software without any disclosed reasons. Furthermore, people in UAE cannot access Skype.com to prevent them from buying minutes to use them with SkypeOut and take advantage of the rates that Skype offers for international calls.
6.1 Legal Challenges
6.1.1 Streamcast Lawsuit
Streamcast Networks accused Skype in January of 2006 of stealing peer-to-peer technology. The lawsuit, however, is still filed in a federal court of Los Angeles where Streamcast Networks want $4.1 billion for stealing their technology.
The country of Oman also blocked Skype for the same speculated reasons that the United Arab Emirates blocked it.
6.1.2 IDT Lawsuit
Net2Phone, the Internet telephone branch from IDT Corp., accused Skype and its parent company, eBay, of infringing with their patent 6,108,704 granted in 2000 where they are said to be the inventors of point-to-point technology.
 Features of Skype. Wikipedia DOI= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_of_Skype  What is Skype?. Skype. DOI= http://www.skype.com/download/
6.2 Political Challenges
6.2.1 China 2005
During a few months in 2005, SkypeOut was blocked in many regions in China by the operator China Telecom for unspecified reasons. Nonetheless, it has been speculated that the reasons behind blocking SkypeOut during those months is that Skype was taking away international and long distance calls businesses from the Republic of China. SkypeOut was unblocked in the same year when Skype agreed with the Chinese government to cooperate in implementing a system of Internet censorship in China. According to critics of this policy such as Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders, Skype is limiting freedom of press and freedom of speech. Despite all of the critics, Niklas Zennstrom, chief executive officer of Skype, said “I may like or not like the laws and regulations to operate businesses in the UK or Germany or the US, but if I do business there I choose to comply with those laws and regulations. I can try to lobby to change them, but I need to comply with them. China in that way is not different”.
 P2P telephony explained. Skype DOI= http://www.skype.com/download/explained.html  Skype. Wikipedia. DOI=http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/317.  Skype for Windows. Skype DOI= http://www.skype.com/download/  Skype Limited. Wikipedia. DOI= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_Limited#_note-3  Skype Protocol. Wikipedia. DOI= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_Protocol  Skype Review. DOI= http://www.download.com/Skype/3000-2349_410225260.html  Skype Security. Wikipedia. DOI= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_security  Voice Over IP. Wikipedia 2007. DOI= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_over_IP
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