That's what you think when you buy into skype's hype.
But what you have to realise that skype is closed (not only the source, but even the protocole is kept secret).
There are industry standards already out there. Not as in some technical document written by a master student. But as in currently widely deployed and used by lots of companies/users/etc.
XMPP (started by Jabber) is an open standard with wide adoption for internet messaging. And it allows federation (users on any server can chat with users of any other server. For exemple between @gmail.com and @jabber.org).
Jingle is a layer developed by Google which adds audio/video capabilities to the XMPP infrastructure.
- Google uses XMPP for its Google Talk chat (and allows federation).
- MSN and Facebook offer XMPP gateway to their chat system. (Although with a few limitation: no federation, so only chat with users on the same network, and both use some proprietary skype web-plugin technology for audio/video).
SIP is an industry standard for VoIP (and chat, thanks to the SIMPLE extension). As in virtually everybody else beside skype is using it.
- It allows some federation (@iptel.org user can chat and call @ekiga.net users)
- it's the absolute standard. If you here of a non-slype VoIP-to-landline, chance are they are accessed using SIP.
And now come the best part of using open technologies:
OTR (for of the record) is an end-to-end encryption layer which can be stacked above any chat system. It's included by default in some popular chat software (Adium, Jitsi, etc)
That means you can also run it above XMPP, so Google can't read your messages.
As long as both ends use OTR, you can encrypt your messages no matter the chat system underneath.
(That means it could be even theoretically implemented above Skype)
Both XMPP/Jingle and SIP use RTP for their media channels which *is* peer-2-peer (unless a TURN server is required, and even then the user can chose a trusted server). Due to the way this work (Jingle and SIP are signaling protocols: they are used to get point to agree to open an audio/video session, but the actual session happens over RTP), its very easy to add security here too. And it's been done: its called SRTP and ZRTP and they are standards too.
As long as both ends support SRTP/ZRTP its possible to encrypt any audio/video RTP session no matter the signaling used (so even for users of Google Talk).
What we don't have are 660+ million registered users.
Well if you think about creating your own new chat system, there's indeed a network effect in favour of skype.
BUT remember those standard mentioned above?
XMPP is already used by Google. That means there are already hundreds of million registered users there too.
(you could also count Facebook in, if you consider the limitations - they can only chat with other facebook users, and use a proprietary fomat for audio/video chat)
Suddenly Skype is "just another player in the field".
Landline and mobile access.
Are you kidding? This is just plain uninformed.
SkypeIn/SkypeOut is far from the only VoIP-2-Phone access provider.
There are hundreds of such providers out there.
And virtually all of them are using the SIP standard (some are also offering the older H323 standard) (and I think google's own voice system is also available as XMPP/Jingle).
In fact, they are much more interesting: as they use an open standard, you can pick any of your choosing. It's a free open market with a real pressure to keep the prices low.
If you use Skype, you're limited to only using their SkypeIn/SkypeOut service and their prices.
If you use another software based on open standard, not only can you chat with all the people you already have from Google (or Facebook) but you can also make calls using the landline provider you choose which has the best prices for you (my SIP-to-landline provider is cheaper than skype)
And that's only for traditional service provider. As SIP is an open standard, you can even imagine other usages. Some DSL modem (like Fritz!Box) have also ISDN/analog connection and feature VoIP-2-landline: recieve call from you landline to your VoIP devices (laptop, smartphone) or use a regular or cordless phone to call VoIP targets.
Clients available now for every platform.
Where's my WebOS client? I also have an idea of a cool rasberry pi project can I have a generic Linux/ARM client ?
Can I also have a cross-platform client written in Java ? and embed it inside a webpage ?
There are several skype clients. But they only run on the selected few platforms that skype and microsoft choose to port it to.
Meanwhile there *is* just a crazy amount of clients supporting open standards.
I can download today a java client like Jitsi, or a Linux/ARM port of pidgin, fire it up, connect it with my google account and chat securely with any of my contacts also on google.
The alternative is already here. Thank to widespread standard usage there's already a network to leverage.
The only single historical advantage of Skype has been its setup:
almost no network configuration required. Skype leverages Kazaa technology to be able to create P2P connection even behind NATs, firewall, etc.
But nowadays, with UPnP, STUN, TURN and specially ICE (and also with the advances of IPv6) these advantages are eroding.