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[liberationtech] skype

Brian Conley brianc at
Thu Mar 21 16:04:15 PDT 2013

+1 Yosem, except I take issue with the last point.

I don't think its always that superior technical solutions *can't* provide
better branding/usability, its that they choose NOT to, or in the past have
even demonized anyone who thinks there is value in such things.

luckily this is changing!


On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 2:36 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at>wrote:

> Rich, that's because you're not thinking like the average non-technical
> user, who usually does the following:
> The user hears from a friend that she can make calls for free over Skype.
>  So she clicks on the Skype link.  Skype has millions of users, meaning it
> will be around for a while. The Skype website looks visually attractive,
> meaning that it must have a lot of developers.  More recently, it is owned
> by Microsoft, which the user trusts for similar reasons.  "Most large,
> stable, visually-striking brands can be trusted," the user thinks.  She
> doesn't think for she doesn't know that "Microsoft has been attacked a lot."
> Now, the user installs Skype.  She clicks through a few steps, easy
> enough.  That's a low barrier to adoption.
> Next, the user sees all their family and friends on there.  "Great," she
> thinks. "Now I can call that friend who told me to install it."
> After that, the user reads in a news article that Skype is insecure.
>  "That sucks," she thinks. "But it's not like I do anything confidential on
> there anyway."  Or, perhaps, she thinks, "I haven't done anything wrong, so
> who cares if I'm being watched. I'm glad the government is looking out for
> those terrorists."
> To the extent that the user cares about security, now she needs to figure
> out what's the best secure alternative out there.  But notice what happens:
>  There's no large, established competitor that is secure.  Those
> competitors don't have brands.
> To the extent that the user finds a secure competitor, say because
> Consumer Reports published an article on it (for the average non-technical
> user may not know of EFF), then she might click and check it out.  She
> might ask her family and friends.  But their family and friends have never
> heard of it and, even worse, are not on it.
> "I care about my security," she may think. "So I will try it anyway."  But
> all the time it gnaws at her that she doesn't know the competitor's name
> and that she has to take a leap of faith to install it.  The company says
> it's open source.  "What the heck does that mean?"  She thinks.  "What if
> this company is untrustworthy?  What if this company goes under and sells
> my data?  What if..."  Too many barriers to adoption.
> We always think, "let's make the most private and secure solution,"
> forgetting that users care about many brand attributes that the most
> superior technical solution can't provide.
> On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 1:05 PM, Rich Kulawiec <rsk at> wrote:
> > On Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 11:17:03PM -0400, Louis Su?rez-Potts wrote:
> >> One is tempted to suggest using other than Skype. Alternatives exist,
> >> and these are secure, at least according to their claims. As well,
> >> Skype's code is not transparent, in the way that other, open source,
> >> applications' are.
> >
> > I'm more than tempted: I can't understand why anyone would even consider
> > using Skype.  It's closed-source, therefore it must be presumed insecure.
> > Nothing Microsoft says about it can be trusted.  There is reason to
> believe
> > that it's been successfully attacked by third parties.  &etc.
> >
> > I dunno 'bout y'all, but I think that's enough to blacklist it
> permanently.
> > Done.  Over.  Next?
> >
> > ---rsk
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Brian Conley

Director, Small World News

m: 646.285.2046

Skype: brianjoelconley
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