July 27, 2013

Skype says it will kill its Desktop API by end of 2013

By

summer-of-mobile3

Summary:It started life as Skype Public API in 2004 and was reborn in 2011, but it is time for Skype Desktop API to sail into the sunset. Yes, Microsoft is killing it and is asking developer to instead embrace Skype URIs.

summer-of-mobile3

Skype, the Microsoft-owned internet telephony service, is planning to kill its Desktop API (application programming interface), according to an email sent to developers by Chris Andrews, Head of Skype Developer Program. Skype wants folks to use Skype URIs as its believes that will allow the developers to access Skype via various platforms — mobile, web and desktop.

Skype is deeply enmeshed into the new Windows. Skype URIs need the Skype client for all communications, as Skype explains on its developer website. The action is to some extent driven by the growth of Skype on mobile, which has actually helped the company grow its usage.

The Desktop API enabled third party applications to communicate with the Skype network and is going to stop working sometime by the end of 2013. “Although we will continue to support the Desktop API for the rest of 2013, in September the App Directory will close,” Andrews wrote. (Full text of his email is below) I have reached out to a few third party app developers and will update the story with their reactions.

The Desktop API is the descendant of the Skype Public API that was first introduced in 2004. In November 2011, Microsoft introduced the Desktop API with much fanfare. Developer chief Andrews at the time told software industry trade publication, the SD Times:

“Skype released its first public API in 2004,” he said. “The biggest request was for a so-called ‘headless version’ of Skype that was all the functionality of the application without the user interface. That was available through SkypeKit in June 2010. Now, we’ve added a video API so developers can embed Skype video into their Mac, Windows and Linux desktop applications.”

Here is Chris Andrews’ complete note.

I am writing to inform you that due to some changes we are making to improve the overall Skype Experience, the Desktop API will cease to function correctly from September 2013 and we have made the decision to de-commission it.

As you may know, Skype has been investing in technology improvements, which will significantly benefit Skype users across all platforms, especially Mobile devices (see “Skype’s Mobile Future”). These changes will significantly improve the speed of delivery of calls and messages, whilst retaining excellent battery life. In addition, as more people are using Skype on more devices, we are also working hard to create a more familiar and consistent Skype experience across all of the major platforms (see “Skype passes 100M Android Installs and Launches Redesigned 4.0″).

As a consequence of this, we have decided to retire our Desktop APIs. These APIs were originally created in 2004 and do not support mobile application development. Going forward, developers will be able to write applications, which use features of Skype across all the major platforms, through the use of Skype URIs. We believe this will allow developers to create innovative mobile, web and desktop solutions, while retaining a familiar and consistent Skype experience across devices.

Although we will continue to support the Desktop API for the rest of 2013, in September the App Directory will close, chat functionality through the API will stop working and we will begin notifying users with messaging in Skype for Desktop. As a result, we wanted to give you notice now so you have the opportunity to modify your application in response to these changes.

I want to personally thank you for your investment in Skype throughout the years. This decision was not made lightly. Going forward, we hope you will consider the use of URIs as a way of developing innovative Skype powered solutions. If you have any questions or comments about the changes, please contact us at skypedev@microsoft.com . We’ll do our best to address them in a timely fashion.

Permalink • Print • Comment

How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

 

• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply

 
 
Skype logo

Skype worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video and audio conversations. Photograph: Patrick Sinkel/AP

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.

The documents show that:

• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;

• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;

• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;

• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;

• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;

• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.

The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration. All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their co-operation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.

In a statement, Microsoft said: “When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands.” The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data “only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.

In June, the Guardian revealed that the NSA claimed to have “direct access” through the Prism program to the systems of many major internet companies, including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51% belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time. Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.

Since Prism’s existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.

Microsoft’s latest marketing campaign, launched in April, emphasizes its commitment to privacy with the slogan: “Your privacy is our priority.”

Similarly, Skype’s privacy policy states: “Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic data and communications content.”

But internal NSA newsletters, marked top secret, suggest the co-operation between the intelligence community and the companies is deep and ongoing.

The latest documents come from the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) division, described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the agency. It is responsible for all programs aimed at US communications systems through corporate partnerships such as Prism.

The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year.

Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats

A newsletter entry dated 26 December 2012 states: “MS [Microsoft], working with the FBI, developed a surveillance capability to deal” with the issue. “These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec 2012.”

Two months later, in February this year, Microsoft officially launched the Outlook.com portal.

Another newsletter entry stated that NSA already had pre-encryption access to Outlook email. “For Prism collection against Hotmail, Live, and Outlook.com emails will be unaffected because Prism collects this data prior to encryption.”

Microsoft’s co-operation was not limited to Outlook.com. An entry dated 8 April 2013 describes how the company worked “for many months” with the FBI – which acts as the liaison between the intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley on Prism – to allow Prism access without separate authorization to its cloud storage service SkyDrive.

The document describes how this access “means that analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO for this – a process step that many analysts may not have known about”.

The NSA explained that “this new capability will result in a much more complete and timely collection response”. It continued: “This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established.”

A separate entry identified another area for collaboration. “The FBI Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) team is working with Microsoft to understand an additional feature in Outlook.com which allows users to create email aliases, which may affect our tasking processes.”

The NSA has devoted substantial efforts in the last two years to work with Microsoft to ensure increased access to Skype, which has an estimated 663 million global users.

One document boasts that Prism monitoring of Skype video production has roughly tripled since a new capability was added on 14 July 2012. “The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete ‘picture’,” it says.

Eight months before being bought by Microsoft, Skype joined the Prism program in February 2011.

According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general.

The NSA was able to start tasking Skype communications the following day, and collection began on 6 February. “Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete,” the document stated, praising the co-operation between NSA teams and the FBI. “Collaborative teamwork was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system.”

ACLU technology expert Chris Soghoian said the revelations would surprise many Skype users. “In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps,” he said. “It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”

The information the NSA collects from Prism is routinely shared with both the FBI and CIA. A 3 August 2012 newsletter describes how the NSA has recently expanded sharing with the other two agencies.

The NSA, the entry reveals, has even automated the sharing of aspects of Prism, using software that “enables our partners to see which selectors [search terms] the National Security Agency has tasked to Prism”.

The document continues: “The FBI and CIA then can request a copy of Prism collection of any selector…” As a result, the author notes: “these two activities underscore the point that Prism is a team sport!”

In its statement to the Guardian, Microsoft said:

We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues. First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes.

Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid. Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate.

Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely. That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues.

In a joint statement, Shawn Turner, spokesman for the director of National Intelligence, and Judith Emmel, spokeswoman for the NSA, said:

The articles describe court-ordered surveillance – and a US company’s efforts to comply with these legally mandated requirements. The US operates its programs under a strict oversight regime, with careful monitoring by the courts, Congress and the Director of National Intelligence. Not all countries have equivalent oversight requirements to protect civil liberties and privacy.

They added: “In practice, US companies put energy, focus and commitment into consistently protecting the privacy of their customers around the world, while meeting their obligations under the laws of the US and other countries in which they operate.”

• This article was amended on 11 July 2013 to reflect information from Microsoft that it did not make any changes to Skype to allow Prism collection on or around July 2012.

Permalink • Print • Comment

July 25, 2011

Trillian – version 5

Click here to download Trillian v5.x!

Permalink • Print • Comment

May 29, 2011

Microsoft Skype breaks open-source partnership

I told you so. I knew that Steve Ballmer could talk all he wanted about how Microsoft would continue to support non-Microsoft platforms, but that there was no way he’d actually do it. The first proof is here. Digium, the company behind the popular open-source Asterisk private-branch exchange (PBX) program, has announced that Skype has unilaterally ended its deal that allowed Asterisk to work with Skype.

Digium’s letter to its Asterisk users reads:

Skype for Asterisk will not be available for sale or activation after July 26, 2011.

Skype for Asterisk was developed by Digium in cooperation with Skype. It includes proprietary software from Skype that allows Asterisk to join the Skype network as a native client. Skype has decided not to renew the agreement that permits us to package this proprietary software. Therefore Skype for Asterisk sales and activations will cease on July 26, 2011.

This change should not affect any existing users of Skype for Asterisk. Representatives of Skype have assured us that they will continue to support and maintain the Skype for Asterisk software for a period of two years thereafter, as specified in the agreement with Digium. We expect that users of Skype for Asterisk will be able to continue using their Asterisk systems on the Skype network until at least July 26, 2013. Skype may extend this at their discretion.

Skype for Asterisk remains for sale and activation until July 26, 2011. Please complete any purchases and activations before that date.

It doesn’t require a genius to see what the Microsoft and Skype are doing. This summer Microsoft will be launching the Microsoft-hosted version of its Lync unified-communications server, aka Lync Online. Asterisk is a direct competitor to the entire Lync line. Need I say more?

While Microsoft still hasn’t explained how they’re going to integrate Skype’s rickety peer-to-peer (P2P) infrastructure with its server-based Lync server or its cloud-based Lync Online, it’s on their to-do list. What isn’t on MicroSkype’s to do list is supporting non-Microsoft owned and controlled platforms.

Skype’s Response:

Jennifer Caukin, a spokeswoman for Skype, has a different slant. Caukin said, “Skype made the decision to retire Skype for Asterisk several months ago, as we have prioritized our focus around implementing the IETF SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] standard in our Skype Connect solution. SIP enjoys the broadest support of any of the available signaling alternatives by business communications equipment vendors, including Digium.  By supporting SIP in favor of alternatives, we maximize our resources and continue to reinforce our commitment to delivering Skype on key platforms where we can meet the broadest customer demand.”

Related Stories:

Microsoft’s Lync Online: What’s coming when

How Microsoft, Skype, Nokia can rule: Cut out obscene data roaming rates abroad

Beyond Skype: VoIP Alternatives

How Skype does, and doesn’t, work

Microsoft’s Ballmer $7.7-Billion Skype Blunder

Permalink • Print • Comment

December 2, 2010

How to Minimize Skype to Windows 7 System Tray (Notification Area)

Due to the new design behavior guideline for Windows Taskbar on Windows 7, more and more software application has now making its icon to locate and stick at Windows 7 Taskbar when minimized, instead of minimizing to system tray (notification area). The most common example in Windows Live Messenger, and now Skype 4.2 (download Skype 4.2 Beta) follows the footstep.

In Skype 4.2 or any newer versions, Skype will be minimized to Taskbar, as an icon or button, when the Skype main window is closed. In previous versions, such as Skype viagra canadian 4.1, 4.0 and 3.0, Skype is typically minimized to system tray, which now known as notification area, right beside the clock on Windows Taskbar when the main window is closed.

Leaving the Skype program running on Windows Taskbar is not very useful to many users, especially notifications alert will pop up informing user when there is new incoming call, instant message (IM), files, contacts, events and etc. The Taskbar icon or button is prone to mistakenly or accidentally click and activate, and the Skype window is also subjected to rotation when user jumping around tasks with Alt+Tab or Win+Tab keyboard shortcuts.

In order to make Skype minimize and hide its icon into notification area or system tray when minimized, users can use the same trick to minimize Windows Live Messenger MSN Messenger to system tray in Windows 7. Here’s how to minimize Skype to notification tray on Windows 7.

Updated Skype Built-In Method

  1. In Skype, go to Tools -> Options.
  2. Then, click on Advanced tab to go to Advanced settings.
  3. Uncheck and untick the Keep Skype in the taskbar while I’m signed in option.

    Hide and Remove Skype from Taskbar

  4. Click Save button, and the Skype button or icon will be removed from Taskbar on minimize.

Note: You won’t see the option if the Skype is in compatibility mode.

Compatibility Mode Method

  1. Exit or quit from Skype program.
  2. Right click on Skype icon on Desktop or Skype shortcut in Start Menu, and select Properties.

    Skype Properties

  3. Go to Compatibility tab.
  4. Under “Compatibility Mode’ section, check and tick the checkbox for Run this program in compatibility mode for: option.
  5. In the below drop-down box, select Windows Vista (Service Pack 2).

    Run Skype in Vista Compatibility Mode to Minimize to System Tray in Win7

  6. Click OK.
  7. Start the Skype program, and now it should minimize to system tray.
Permalink • Print • Comment
Made with WordPress and Semiologic • Sky Gold skin by Denis de Bernardy