As news of Microsoft’s $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype begins to surface, I cannot help but ask the question. What does this mean for Linux users of Skype? In the past, Microsoft has gone out of its way to make sure its software was not compatible with Linux, and Steve Ballmer has thrown his fair share of insults at free and open source software in general. Does this mean Linux support for Skype will soon end?
Chances are, the current version of Skype for Linux will continue to hang around and work with the system, at least for the moment. After that, however, Microsoft might just let the Linux version die, and eventually, the service may stop working with the current client. If that happens, Linux users may have little recourse, since the very protocol that Skype uses is proprietary (not even allowing open source Linux versions to be developed to work with it).
This highlights the biggest problem with proprietary software. When the poop hits the fan, the users are the ones who get dirty. With free and open source software, we do not have that problem. We have seen that with Oracle’s acquisition of Sun (and OpenOffice.org). Before Oracle could even come to a decision about the future of OpenOffice, the free software community had already moved on with LibreOffice (a forked version based on the OpenOffice.org code).
If Mark Shuttleworth sold Canonical to Microsoft tomorrow, Ubuntu would not die. Instead, a forked version would emerge and may even be better than the original. That is the beauty of software freedom. Skype was always ugly, and now we see why.
Photo Credit: JD Lasica.