Skype Pro Fraud

Quite a lot of people complain (on the Skype Forum) about the fact that calls to national landlines are charged, even after subscribing to SkypePro.
People should read the small text on the bottom of the page:
When you click on it, you find the very limited list of countries where it is valid (click on the image).

It is a very nasty trick from nasty companies to place very essential information on another webpage! I still do believe Skype is a friendly company!

Therefore i would like to suggest to Skype to adapt their webpage in the following way:
This isn’t difficult! And this would be honest customer information!


4th Birthday 4 Skype

Today is the 4th birthday of Skype.

It is somewhat a disappointment: last year, at the same date we reached also a milestone of 7.000.000 concurrent users online, see my Birthday post.
Today we didn't even go over the 9.6 million concurrent users online, the former highest number ever reached some months ago. This clearly demonstrates the slower growth.

Slower doesn't mean "no growth"! There is growth, and i guess we will reach 10 million concurrent users online somewhere in September, much later than i would have expected 6 months ago.
Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SKYPE! It is still my favorite P2P application!


About the Nyanyan graphs

My favorite Skype "concurrent users online graph" can be found on http://nyanyan.to/skype/40hr_chart.php. The graph below is from August 2005.

The Japanese author of the graph made a short explanation (in English) on his blog (click here).

He tells us he has two sources:
  • the Skype RSS feed (see a link on the right side of my blog)
  • the Skype client "people online" information
I am grateful he is providing his graphs. Thanks a lot!


6% Japanese are Skypers?

I read the following statement of Shinichi Iwata, general manager of Skype's Japanese office, on www.skype-news.com:

The number of registered users in Japan totaled 5.7 million at the end of July.

As usual, let me correct this statement: they mean “registered user names”, not "registered users", and this isn't equal to "active users", see my explanation here in Skype Journal!

Let us assume the numbers are however correct, this would mean that:
  • 2.5 % of the active Worldwide Skypers are Japanese
  • 6 % of the Japanese population are Skypers
  • 10 % of the “active” Japanese population are Skypers (discounting people older than 65 years, and younger than 14 years)
Bear in mind that the second and third numbers above are very exaggerated, and i repeat why there are less active users than registered user names:
  • lost password, and therefore inaccessible user name, therefore the need to create a new user name
  • testing Skype, and abandoned use of the user name
  • spare user names, registered for alternative or future use (i have several!)
  • the owner of the user name died (yes, this also happens!)
  • the person switched to another VoIP tool
  • the person registered a temporary name for a temporary past situation
Question to Shinichi Iwata: how many user names did you register?


Outage & Forum

Of course, not surprising …During the outage of Skype some days ago, quite a lot of people registered on the Skype Forum to find the answer to their “common” problem (not everybody reads blogs of course!).

While the last months about 300 new Forum users were registered every day, it rose to almost 1500 new Forum users on August 17.

That is good! Most people who try to find a solution to their problem on the Skype Forum want of course to continue to use Skype!


Nodes and Supernodes

There is a very nice picture and explanation about "nodes and supernodes" and why the Skype outage, found on the blog of Mike McGrath! Click on the picture below to go to the post ...
However, i think the picture is oversimplified: i thought ordinary hosts also could have direct links with each other, even when not in a call, therefore transferring a small part of the "sound/data" packages of other people.


Shut Up!

I repeat what i said yesterday: i think the explanation after the outage was quite OK. And they provided some more clarifications today!

But, why did Skype communicate so badly during the crisis? Almost no concrete information, apart from the usual “we are doing all we can”, and “it isn’t a hacker”! Niklas Zennström … who is this? Never heard of him … during the outage hurricane!

(lips sealed)Some Skype Beta Testers have a blog, and don’t hide they are Beta Testers: not any one of them commented on the outage! Not a word. Not even after the recovery! Very unusual! The only comment was from Tamas Henning “Nope! Sorry guys, there is nothing here”. But wander with your mouse over the link here, it says: “Overwhelmed or the inevitable(lips sealed) has finally come?”. Another Beta Tester posted something, then removed it! I was however too late to read it!

Were they told to “shut up”? Probably, but this looks like good old style communist or dictatorial practices!

Jaanus Kase, the former main blogger and communication man of Skype, commented however, and he showed clearly his disagreement with the Skype communication policy DURING the outage: the right thing to do would be to have an ongoing public incident report and debriefing of what’s going on. … Skype should do (this) if it still wants to be an open friendly company!

We can’t say Skype didn’t communicate at all of course! Villu Arak and some others kept the public informed, but in a very cleaned up language.

I think that next time they should improve their crisis communication!

[EDITED] Tamas Henning made a comment on his blog, after this post!


The official blabla!

I am quite happy with the official explanation of Skype concerning the outage in “What happened on August 16”, it is a quite convincing explanation.

But the problem isn’t completely solved yet: “Skype has now identified and already introduced a number of improvements ...

They could have been more precise in some of their answers! And fortunately they changed in the course of the day the phrase “massive restart of our user’s computers … after receiving a routine software update” … by "... after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update"

I still would like to see some more answers …
  • Skype says: “this event revealed a previously unseen software bug” … unseen? What happened on August 29 last year, and on some other occasions? Wasn’t this related? See my posts below and this here “Frozen Skype Cloud”!
  • And why did the number of downloads raise so fast during the outage?
  • And why was the Skype Forum down?
  • And why did they release a new update of their software during the outage storm, although from the change log it seems to be a minor update?
  • [EDITED] And found in the comments on the "official blabla": "why was I, a Linux user, booted? I wasn't trying to log in at the time? My server, and Skype had been running for several days." This is also a good question from sr.wombat!
Anyway, congratulations, they solved the problem! And i am a happy Skyper again.


Outage Update and News?

We can expect some information about the Skype outage soon! Villu Arak from the Skype Blogs told it: "On Monday, we’ll provide a more detailed explanation of what happened."

In the meantime Skype Journal said "this" about the new Skype client that was released in the middle of the Outage Hurricane: "Minor update. Not related to "the blackout," just a few small bugfixes and an update to Extras manager.".

Are they (Skype Journal) naive? Would you clean your house while a hurricane is blowing it away? Come on!!!!! Readers here should know that Skype almost always released its new versions of the Windows Skype client on a Wednesday ... and this release was on a Friday. And why did they replace during some hours this new version by an older version (i downloaded a, while the webpage said it was a .214!)?

What i hope to see in the detailed explanation of Skype are some YES/NO ANSWERS and DETAILS ABOUT WHY and WHAT Skype did to solve the problems on the following questions:
  1. Were the servers hacked? (YES/NO)
  2. Was it due to the Windows updates? (YES/NO)
  3. Why was the forum unavailable for several hours?
  4. Why did client download speed increase so dramatically while at the same time users online went down?
  5. Why did Skype release a new version of its software during a critical outage?
  6. Why did Skype put back an older version of the software during some hours?
  7. What role did Supernodes play in the outage and in the recovery process?
  8. Were the past partial outages of last year related to this complete outage? (YES/NO)
  9. Why, if this was an old "2003" bug didn't they solve it in the past?
  10. Why did automatic login fail?
  11. The user count increased slowly over a period of hours. Why did the fix not yield faster results?
  12. Why did they call it algorithm issues in the networking software?
  13. How did they fix it and is it a lasting solution?
  14. How will they refund or reimburse paying customers for their service failures?
Some of the questions above where taken from questions raised by Skype Forum Super User member Spud5 (link here), and some other places.

I understand the "technical" explanation will have to be simple (competitors and hackers are also listening), but the public wants answers!


Dormant bug? Yes!

I wish a peaceful weekend to the Skype engineers and IT staff who had two very hectic days.

I hope the management is working now on a decent and honest clarification for the 30 or 40 million active customers.

Some explanation concerning my previous post (see below) ...

This outage seems indeed to have happened several times in the past. See my 5 screen shots taken from the fantastic graphs of nyanyan.to !

The legend is this (as an example):
  • 060829 : "yymmdd" or "2006 - august - 29", therefore August 29, 2006
  • -1.9 M : means a sudden drop of 1.9 million concurrent users online
There are continuously people logging in, and others logging off. If there is a temporary login problem, as seems to have happened at least on the dates mentioned in the post below, only people can leave the P2P cloud, nobody can enter it again.

But it has (in the past) always been a very temporary phenomenon!


It happened in the past!

There were some moments ago like 115 comments on the last update of Villu Arak, the main Blogger of Skype. Quite some Skype Blog readers are complaining about the hollow explanation concerning the cause of the Skype Outage.

Skype User acceinlondon made the following comment on the Skype Blogs:
"Could you perhaps give us more information about what caused the fault. This is the way to keep customers happy. Don't you appreciate when an airline company takes the time to explain why the flight is delayed. Give us a little more info...". I completely agree with him.

In the meantime, a lot of these commenters and bloggers are spreading several rumours:
  • The Windows XP and Vista updates (and what about Linux and Macintosh?)
  • Russian Hackers
  • A bug in the new Skype 3.5 release
The only small real explanation (from Villu Arak) was this: “The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. … This problem occurred because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software.

This seems to be confirmed by an interview given to the New York Times by Kurt Sauer, Skype’s chief security officer: “What happened today was caused by a unique set of events, the genesis of which is not entirely understood.” And “A flaw in a crucial piece of software that connects users to these servers appears to have been the source of the problem. Skype engineers said the flaw existed in every copy of the Skype software that had been downloaded since the service’s start in 2003. Skype executives said they still did not know why the error, sitting dormant for four years, suddenly crashed the network.

OK, could be! Last year, the day Skype reached 7.000.000 people online, a similar but quite shorter outage happened, see here “frozen Skype cloud”. I don't remember having seen any official Skype explanation about the phenomenon!

And i have severall times seen much smaller events like this, almost always around the daily peak time (see the small inserted graphs)! Therefore: yes, it is probably a flaw in the software!


Skype Outage and downloads

Some people are speculating that the general outage is due to the Windows patches that were released yesterday. They could be right, but i don't think so! On one of my computers, i didn't install the patches, and Skype didn't work.

I guess something worse is happening, like a very heavy attack on the Skype servers. But i could be wrong. Why do i think so? Look at the extract of the graph copied from http://nyanyan.to/

  1. The first green upward arrow point from the sudden increase in the speed of downloads, to the sudden decrease of users online.
  2. The second green downward arrow points to the only few minutes (20?) during which indeed the downloads were almost stopped (by Skype - this seems to confirm their message)!
  3. The two other green lines are there only to emphasis the changed slope of the download curve (a higher slope meaning more downloads).

I tried to download the Skype client, and i succeeded!

This combination of higher downloads and Skype outage is very weird: this looks like a hacker or a download-BOT is infecting the main Skype servers!

Problems with Skype login

I never experienced such a general crash before, but when i tried to login, it failed. Even logging in to Skype Forum failed. Therefore i knew this had to be a Skype issue! Then i went to heartbeat.skype.com and indeed, this message was posted there:
14:02 GMT: Some of you may be having problems logging into Skype. Our engineering team has determined that it’s a software issue. We expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours. Meanwhile, you can simply leave your Skype client running and as soon as the issue is resolved, you will be logged in. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Additionally, downloads of Skype have been temporarily disabled. We will make downloads available again as quickly as possible.

This is very weird, because my Skype has automatic login, so it shouldn't go to the Skype servers to retrieve the password (unless Skype changed this!). The whole Peer-to-Peer network seems to be down! Therefore it is indeed a Skype server problem!

Very very strange. I thought this couldn't happen! And, from the chart above: it seems downloading the client wasn't disabled!

I hope Skype gives an "honest explanation" to its customers in the next hours ... after solving the problem!

UPDATED: look also at the blue download curve. Although Skype said it made downloads unavailable, the download counter is running! I checked the RSS feed of Skype too. According to this, the number of users online is only 119.871 concurrent users online. BUT THE DOWNLOAD SPEED IS ABOUT 4 (four) TIMES AS HIGH AS BEFORE: 2000 downloads per minute compared to 500 at normal times!

Indeed, this could be more than "just a software problem"!


Only numbers

The main goal of this blog is discussing about Skype numbers: concurrent users online, downloads of the Skype software, revenue, Skype forum visits, etc.

Therefore i added a “link” category to the right side of my blog: “Only numbers”!

I will discuss them one by one in reverse order of my preference!

  • Alexa is a site where you can see the evolution of webpage visits of a particular web domain name. You can see a daily traffic rank trend over several months, and some other details like the countries where the visits come from.
  • I discovered SkypeStats.com some days ago. It gives a daily updated curve of the concurrent Skype users online, in UTC time scale. Nicely presented!
  • Nyanyan.to is a Japanese site. It gives two curves, the Skype online and download chart last 7 days updated every 24 hours and my favourite one, the Skype online and download chart last 40 hours (see an example below). This one is updated every few minutes! On both graphs, if you wander with your mouse over the curves, it gives the corresponding number of that particular measuring point! The only things i regret is that the horizontal scale is the Japanese time zone instead of GMT, and that the weekly graph sometimes makes a “date” mistake.
Concerning the graph above, we notice something that i commented in the past. Yesterday at peaktime we reached 8.5 million concurrent users online. Still much less then the 9.6 million i noticed some months ago. But this "low number" is due to Holiday period in Northern Hemisphere.
Today we ONLY reached 7.8 million people online, that is 700 thousand less than yesterday.

Explanation? Yes, i have one! Holidays and weekends are bad for the number of concurrent users online! Today was August 15, and more than 60 countries had a Holiday, including Belgium. Most were Catholic countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa. Indeed it was Assumption Day. Some of these countries are really big Skype countries: France, Poland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, …


IPEVO free.2

Somewhere in June i received the IPEVO free.2.
USB phone for Skype. I downloaded the last version of the installation software. Installation was ok, but i had some problems when testing the included recording tool: crashes, no recording, Skype crashes. I waited, till Phil Wolff of Skype Journal asked me: «did you test it? ». I tested it again (no new software available yet, but yes, quite a lot of Windows Vista updates).

First remarks:
  • neat and attractive design although ... my youngest son (17) didn't like it!?
  • Plugging it in the USB port of my vista computer, and it works at once as an ordinary microphone + phone system.
Then i installed again the software. Before telling the good things about it ... the recording tool started up this time, but i wasn't able to record, and i had again recording tool crashes, Skype crashes, etc. Is it Windows Vista, is it a Skype or is it the IPEVO software that isn't ok, i don't know. It works with XP, see a review here at Skype Journal.

I won't repeat all the comments made by Jan Geirnaert in the review mentioned, but only the strongest points of this phone and included software:
  • On your LCD screen you can easily scroll upwards or downwards through your Skype contacts with the green knob in the middle.
  • A recording knob on the phone is really great! While talking, when you think that it begins to be worth recording, just push the button! Fantastic.
  • And then this detail, but quite important: about 3 meter of USB cable! I like long cables for a wired device!
But still, a USB phone isn't my favourite device: you loose one hand (for holding the phone). I prefer a headphone (with a very long wire): both hands are free to use my keyboard while talking. For me there is only one alternative to the wired headphone: a wireless Skype phone, and even then: i would prefer a wireless headphone, to be able to continue cooking in my kitchen WITH BOTH HANDS while talking.

One year

My blog is one year old today. My first post explained why i started to use Skype.

I would like to thank all the people who visited the blog, and of course special thanks to those who made comments, agreeing or disagreeing! I love the discussions about my favorite communication tool!

Please, today, don’t just make comments to congratulate me, i don’t need it, i already congratulated myself ;-) . But if you want to post a comment, answer the following three questions concerning this blog:
  1. What do you like most?
  2. What do you dislike?
  3. Do you have any suggestions?
Only today, i will be very "harsh" to the people who congratulate me without answering the questions: i will delete their posts!


Autoredial is a FAX feature!

Some days ago i noticed in my Call Settings something i didn’t notice before:This shouldn’t be checked “on” by default, in my opinion! OK for a fax, you can go to the toilet (or whatever), and the fax will perhaps be sent after some attempts! But not for a phone! And Skype isn’t a fax application. I agree for the option, but it should be checked “off” by default!

But it isn't really a problem, the auto redial isn't automatic. You always get the following screen before "enabling" it for your particular call:(The screen above isn't shown when you uncheck the auto redial function).

On the other hand PamFax was launched (still in Beta version, and not for the USA and Canada!), see one of my previous posts, therefore this "redialing" feature can indeed be very useful in combination with PamFax!


Satisfaction questionnaire

Found on the Skype Forums (extract of the post):

I am conducting a questionnaire as part of my master's dissertation to understand Skype users attitudes, behavioral intentions and their response to influence of other users or experts in relation to the Internet telephone Skype. The questionnaire should take you about ten minutes to complete. The questionnaire can be found on the following address:


I did it, it took indeed some 10 minutes, and it was very (too?) easy! Please help her, i hope she shows the results to Skype ... and perhaps she gets an employment opportunity there?

Korea + 1 million

Found on Google:

Telecoms Korea News Service
"Subscribers to internet telephony service Skype passed one million in one year and five months after the service was launched in Korea by Auction."

I wanted to register on their website to see what definition they have for Skype "subscribers", but on their registration page it says: "You may not share the content in any format whatever, including posting on any public or private Web site ..." therefore i stopped registering.

But what do they mean by subscribers:
  • Skype User ID's?
  • SkypeOut customers?
  • Regular and active users?
I would like to know!


Pamela did it again!

Pamela is not the first answering machine for Skype, but it is in my humble opinion the best: go to their website here www.pamela-systems.com.

Yesterday they launched something a lot of people were waiting for: the first Skype Fax machine (for Windows only)! I won’t review it here, because Ike Roelfsema reviewed it on her blog 'Skype Life style', and answered some questions on it to!

One important thing to mention (copied from the PamFax website):

"You need an installed Skype Plugin Manager (do not uncheck "Install Skype Extras Manager" when installing Skype)".

I disabled the Skype Plugin Manager, because i don’t need it … or, i didn’t need it until now! I will perhaps have to change my mind!

And i also read this on their website:

"Why was Pamfax built?

Because we think many people would like to be able to fax using Skype credits from any location. Especially business people who travel a lot will appreciate the service."

So, yes, they target the right public: business people! That is what Skype should do again!

You can download it by clicking on the icon on the right!

Congratulations to all Pamela staff and beta testers! Fantastic!


New 3.5 version out of beta

Skype changed the new 3.5 Windows version from beta status to a stable release today. You can get it here: download Skype for Windows

Remember some of my negative remarks on this new version in my previous blogposts. But of course, some new features are valuable!

They mention as new (since the previous beta releases):

  • Safety and Privacy Improvements
  • API: SET_INPUT for recording Voicemail

I didn’t notice any changes in the privacy settings (perhaps i overlooked something). But i read this on Skype Journal: Your home/business/mobile phone numbers are only displayed to your accepted Skype contacts, and not to everyone on Skype, when viewing your profile, etc.

If this is true, i am not happy at all: my main Skype account is a professional one, and i want potential customers to know my phone numbers and to call me! I would prefer an option in the privacy settings to show it or not show it! Most businesses want their phone numbers to be known. This "feature" is aimed at private persons. In my opinion again a wrong move, away from business needs.

The other new features (omitting the API and other small changes like languages) compared to the 3.2 version are:

  • Video Snapshot: Edit video snapshot should use system's PNG editor
  • Added fields in Options to allow Auto Redial on/off and delay between redials
  • Video Snapshot: right click on snapshot should provide a menu
  • Add video to mood and chat message
  • Video snapshot
  • Support for Firewire Digital cameras
  • Auto redial
  • Call Transfer (during active call)
  • Device Indicators
  • Edit chat messages
  • Private Telephone Numbers
  • Send contacts inside chat
  • Visual indicators for Audio In / Audio Out in options
  • In-Client Hardware store button


Focus on Business?

Growth of Skype seems to be stagnating. I expressed my fears here in this blog in the past.

Om Malik analysed the report of Ebay (owner of Skype) on Quarter Two 2007, and concludes: “usage is flattening”.

Skype is adding a lot of smaller new features and even cheating by providing incomplete or misleading information on their website or in the client that could in the short term generate a small increment of revenue.

Remember also their official announcement on the “Disruptive Pricing Strategy for SkypeOutthat was nothing else than a disguised price increase!

In the long run this will chase customers away.

But what about the millions of professional people working for companies who block Skype on their networks and computers? Just to mention two from which I really know it: Alcatel-Lucent and the Belgian Railways, both big employers in Belgium, and the first one even worldwide. And quite some of their employees have a company laptop, that they use at home too. How to make those companies change their minds?

I read this interesting comment from Eric on Skype-Buzz (translated from Dutch):

"… i am IT System Manager and Skype isn’t allowed in our organisation because of the Skype extras. To keep support costs low, we chose for a uniform package of software tools on our computers. For the very same reason Firefox isn’t allowed either.
If Skype could provide us with a not-extensible professional version, it has real chances that we would allow its usage (after thorough testing).
In view of the many demands to be allowed to install it, I think this would make our employees happy.

Happy? Or more productive? Or lower communication costs? Or more income for Skype? Or all of it together? And again some viral growth: “hey Mom, I finally got Skype on my computer, now you can install it too”?


Downloads at normal speed

Some days ago i made some comments on the increased download speed. It reached speeds of 3000 downloads per minute. See also my posts on July 26 and July 23.

Back to normal: speeds are again around 500 per minute.
As can be seen on the graph (edited screenshot of http://nyanyan.to/) the bending point of the curve is exactly on August 1 (see the green circle). That is the date at which the India and Pakistan promotional campaign ended!

I hope for Skype that this has generated some new lasting customers, but i doubt about it. My purchase orders data isn’t very complete or reliable, but from what i have, it doesn’t seem that there was any spectacular increase in SkypeOut orders.


Offline or online?

There is an option in the Skype client to show your Skype presence status on a website.

I use it on one of the websites i manage, on this blog, and it also is visible on the Skype blogs if you post a comment there.

However, there is one small problem: if your computer or Skype crashes, the web presence status shows the last status before the crash!Some days ago my computer crashed. I did restart it some 24 hours later, but in the meantime people going to one of the websites with my web status on it could think i was online. It means the Skype client sends (or doesn’t in case of a crash) the changes to a Skype server.

The Skype clients however check in a more dynamical way the web presence of the contacts in the Skype users cloud, and this gets updated correctly, even if Skype crashes.

This is one of the smaller bugs that exists already since the launching of the “web presence” feature, and that Skype should try to resolve. I reported this in the past.