According to Skype's "Update at midnight GMT", the Skype outage should be resolving over the next few hours:
We are pleased to announce that the situation continues to improve. The sign-on problems have been resolved. Skype presence and chat may still take a few more hours to be fully operational. We know what our faithful users have been going through and we thank you for your patience and kind support.
Skype has come back online for me and the Skype client tells me there are now over 4 million users online, which is the first time I've seen it show that since Wednesday. Given that it's been going up and down all day, I'll withhold judgement for a while, but that number does seem to be climbing (if we can believe the number, which is an open question). My contact list is slowly repopulating with its normal list of people. We'll see.
So the question really is - will Skype see any long-term impact because of this outage?
Certainly in the short-term Skype will have an awful lot of explaining to do. There are certainly some number of business users who have come to rely on SkypeIn and SkypeOut. I know a good number of freelance consultants who have cut their landline and give out their SkypeIn number to everyone and use Skype or SkypeOut for their calls. Countless small startups are "virtual organizations" where Skype is used for all the communication. Skype will definitely need to reassure them that this won't happen again. I expect that many of them will be looking now at what alternatives they have, if for no other reason than to have a backup.
Skype's competitors are definitely circling like sharks that smell blood in the water. Sightspeed's CEO came out with a very pointed blog entry today, "All Peer-to-Peer Models are NOT Created Equal", about how their p2p network was better. Supporters of Damaka seem to be running around leaving glowing praise and inviting people to try Damaka on various blog entries related to the Skype outage (including my own). There have been any number of blog entries and comments out there extolling the virtues of the Gizmo Project. Even Jeff Pulver couldn't resist and tossed in a tweet encouraging people who were missing Skype to try out FWD.
Being the open standards geek that I am, I would love to believe that Skype users would try out many of the other services, many or most of which are based on open standards like SIP. I'd love to see the level of interoperability you have can have with things like (SIP-based) Gizmo. Skype's walled garden approach does concern me. I'd love to see massive adoption of some service to which other services could easily interoperate - and which could have peer-reviewed protocols that were definitely secure. I'd love to see all of that - and that's certainly a potential outcome.
But I'm also a bit too jaded to think it will really happen. The seductive aspect of Skype is that it makes it very simple and easy to use the product. It has (at least for the moment) a massive directory of users. It has APIs that let it be readily integrated with other web sites and services. It's easy to use... and I expect that probably many if not most users will simply go back to using it as they have always done once it comes back into full operation. People have short-term memories...
If there are any beneficiaries of this outage, I would think that they might be AOL, Microsoft, Google or Yahoo!, all of whom have similar consumer services and have voice as an option now. Skype's certainly been perceived as the leader with regard to voice... but all of those others are there... and they all have simple interfaces and massive directories as well.
What do you think? Will Skype suffer any major impact because of this? Will the newer services like Gizmo, Sightspeed and friends win customers? What about the other consumer IM services?