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[liberationtech] Skype redux

Moxie Marlinspike moxie at
Sun Dec 23 13:29:34 PST 2012

On 12/22/2012 04:49 AM, Brian Conley wrote:
> That said, thus far, neither redphone nor those over listed rivals skype
> or Google hangouts quality of transmission.

Depends.  RedPhone's audio quality is (in general) substantially better
on Android than Skype's has been.  Skype's desktop audio quality is
probably better than RedPhone's, however.

I see this more as a desktop vs. android thing rather than a skype vs.
redphone thing.  Low-latency audio on Android is just hard, particularly
over mobile data networks.  It is true, however, that Skype has a much
larger engineering team than we do.

I like to think that RedPhone is getting better all the time, but if
this is something that you or anyone on this list is interested in, we'd
obviously welcome help improving things in any way that you can
contribute.  Please don't be shy about filing issues in the GitHub issue
tracker for the project, even if they are user experience type things
rather than strictly bugs.  We need the feedback.

> This is not meant to detract from them, its more a question, is a
> revenue based model the only option to ensure high enough quality to
> attract users and grow? 

I agree that it's a problem.  I've pointed out before that user
expectations for these types of apps are set by things like WhatsApp,
which is an entire company focused *just* on a single chat app, with an
engineering team that is larger than the number of developers in the
whole "privacy enhancing technology" community put together.

I think there are at least a couple of trends working in our favor though:

1) Mobile apps are a huge opportunity for us.  It's difficult to do much
in the security/privacy area strictly within the browser, and the
barrier to installing native desktop apps is high enough that you need
something like the network effect of skype to make it happen.  The
barrier to having users install mobile apps is much lower, and what we
can do within that framework is much greater.

2) Infrastructure continues to get easier to deploy, manage, and scale.
 As depressing as it is that there are companies developing insecure
communication tools with engineering teams larger than our entire
community, there are also examples of very small teams that have done
some really highly scalable stuff.  The engineering team at Instagram,
for instance, was quite small.  They were able to leverage AWS to scale
up without many problems, while focusing most of their effort on user
experience and core features.  Right now RedPhone has a global set of
POPs deployed that offer less than 100ms RTT to a relay from almost
anywhere in the world, and we don't have a dedicated infrastructure
team.  That would have been really hard to do in the past.

- moxie


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