What properties made Skype the 800lbs gorilla of software phones?
I think I have a few ideas.
1) Video. Even though it took a while to get video working on Linux, it does work and works pretty well.
3) Distributed architecture. Although I've read rants against the usurpation of bandwidth by people who unknowingly become Skype super-nodes, the distributed nature of Skype has allowed for world-wide use without having to worry about being able to connect to a single, central server.
Last, and very much not least,
Seriously, I don't even have a phone book at home any more. I asked around, and several people around me also don't have phone books, and one of them hadn't even noticed until I mentioned it.
Ekiga and other individual SIP and VoIP providers have such search functions to find individuals amongst their subscribers, but this is where the "network effect" takes its toll. Skype, being the 800lbs gorilla, simply has a bigger index than anyone else.
But this obvious need, to find people, is being met by scores of different efforts in scores of different ways. People Finders are popping up like crazy. Put a proper name in a Google search and see for yourself. At this point many are paid services, if the individual has not put themselves online deliberately, but one's SIP address is just as easy to list as any other address or phone number.
I started putting a "sip:" line on my business card, sip:firstname.lastname@example.org, and since the Ekiga server is vanilla SIP, any SIP soft phone can contact me through that mechanism. Which is fine, since there are many SIP phones out there, but that doesn't solve the problem of searching.
It used to be that email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org would be pretty sure to get email to a real person. Now people know well enough to put forth a little effort searching before a real email address is found. The same is true of phone numbers and mailing addresses, and now SIP addresses.
It's time to abandon the number-only E.164 international telephone numbers and move on to SIP. It will take a shift in thinking, and it will be hard for people who are accustomed to using "phone numbers", but it will happen eventually. The world became accustomed to email very quickly.
Ekiga voice software: Multiple registries.
So I can have calls come in from other people with Ekiga accounts, at the same time that I buy a telephone number from a VoIP to POTS gateway provider. Any such service, or multiple services. Ekiga will connect through whichever service the user you're trying to connect to uses, if you have an account with that service as well.
And That's The Rub. In order to talk to someone on a particular service, you must either have an account on that service, or find some way to redirect from yours to theirs. Right now, so I read, that's mostly done by using their E.164 telephone number, which means it goes VoIP to POTS to VoIP. This introduces quite a bit of complexity to something that should be very simple.
I have not tested if a VoIP provider can redirect a call to the VoIP provider of the person being called, but I see no reason that it cannot be done, and much easier than calls are routed between POTS carriers now especially since the SIP services do not need vast look-up tables to translate the SIP address. The service provider is overtly and unambiguously part of the standard SIP identifier, sip:email@example.com. All one SIP provider would need to do is redirect the request after checking DNS for that domain, exactly the same way an email is redirected.
But would that request be accepted by a SIP service from someone who was not a subscriber?
It's far simpler than trying to convert E.164 numbers. If the agreements can be put in place to make such redirects normal, so that all I have to do is use sip:firstname.lastname@example.org regardless of whether or not I have an account on that same service, the inertia that keeps SIP from being adopted en masse will be broken.
Let's get started.
Oh, and if you're wondering why abandon Skype?
Because Skype isn't SIP. It's completely incompatible with anyone else, just like Microsoft likes it.