Skype made a big splash in the communications field when it was released in 2003. The name “Skype” is short for «Sky peer-to-peer», which corresponded with the technology used. Peer-to-peer (abbreviated P2P) implied a direct connection between users.
Torrents, well known to many, are organized on the “user-to-user” principle. Skype established a direct connection between computers connected to the Internet, which provided the breakthrough quality of audio and video calls.
Skype would use users with rather powerful computers and communication channels as nodes in order to coordinate connections between other machines of the network. The usage of P2P connection has led to certain issues. For instance, when the majority of peers are offline, as happened in 2011 when a bug led to a mass disconnection of users. The whole system shutdown as there were too few active nodes to create a full-fledge network.
Apart from that, Skype initially came about when everybody used stationary desktop computers connected to the network for long periods of time with excessive frequency and CPUs powerful enough to use. The growth of mobile technologies and the number of smartphones changed the rules of the game. The number of Skype users who would no longer be able to act as nodes was increasing. They only connected occasionally, didn’t have a sufficiently powerful CPU and their device battery life was rather limited.
After Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, Microsoft developers introduced ‘supernodes’, which they put on their servers in the Azure cloud to improve connection stability. Supernodes acted as nodes which users connected to directly. Thus, a peer was created that involved a mix of technically powerful users and supernodes. This was the biggest infrastructural change in the history of Skype.
Security is the one thing that still bothers many people. This includes end-to-end encryption, which is already used by such messengers such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Transferring Skype infrastructure to the cloud means storing data in the form of messages and files on Microsoft’s servers. Skype’s protocol is proprietary and undocumented; the program code is closed. In addition, Skype clients don’t have the program interface (API), which would allow them to add their encryption. There are no official statements regarding plans to increase data security yet.
The Skype cloud system has its advantages, but it is becoming a limitation for companies and users who are concerned about data security. In the current situation, companies should consider the alternative of Skype for Business, a non-cloud version of Skype, which stores data on the company’s own local servers.