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Marco Marongiu [opinions]

Skype now has no free software competitor. Or has it? [voip] [wengophone] [skype]

The word is finally out. It was just a suspicion about a month ago, but it was finally, sadly, confirmed.

The OpenWengo project ceased to exist last November, and all the developers have been laid off. You may want to read the whole thread and see how much sadness there is amongst the developers and the community. All of the developers have to find other jobs, while we, the community, have to find some good alternative VoIP & IM software.

And it's going to be hard.

My Ekiga experience

As soon as the news came out, I immediately looked into the package list of my Ubuntu desktop for a replacement. And since I didn't want to pull in any KDE-based software, Ekiga seemed the only alternative.

But it isn't.

Wengophone ran on GNU/Linux, Windows, and MacOS. Ekiga has no MacOS build.

It doesn't integrate with all the IM protocols Wengophone did. What's worse, at least in most cases, Ekiga's VoIP service just doesn't cut it.

While I had some problems with Wengophone's audio on GNU/Linux, when it worked it was really very good; and when I tested some nightbuilds on Windows I could make long phone calls to my relatives abroad with no problem at all. It was great.

Since at the moment the exchange rate is favourable (€1 = US$1.45), investing $10 in a VoIP account on Ekiga didn't seem like a big deal. But I can't say that making a landline call was a satisfying experience. The audio quality was nothing special, the lag was long enough to be annoying, and I almost always had a horrible "half duplex" effect, where whoever spoke couldn't hear the other party.

Even if Ekiga and Pidgin merged to give birth to a new VoIP & IM free platform, it would take a long time for the result to be even comparable with Wengophone.

Is this the end?

So, is it true that Wengophone is dead and Skype has no other serious competitor? Not quite.

Dave Neary, ex-development manager of the OpenWengo project, has a few things to say in his blog. In his "Breaking my silence" post he says:

but it’s looking like the OpenWengo project will not remain without a maintainer for long. [...] That is the great thing about free software--AbiWord didn’t die with Abisource, Mozilla didn’t die with AOL’s withdrawl, and OpenWengo will survive without Wengo.

And in his "Next up..." post he says:

I will continue to do work related to OpenWengo--in particular, I will be working with companies who can deliver customisation services and support on the WengoPhone getting them clients.

That gives me hope: maybe we are yet to see the last battle. Is it a dream? A fairy tale? Maybe. We shall see.


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