Next Pit Stop for Google Chrome- Taking Communication Real Time

Google Chrome has come a long way from being the newbie in the browser market to being a major and decisive player today, with a say on how all things Google are served to the people. I still remember the first time Google talked of Chrome and announced a web browser saying,

All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends — all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that’s what we set out to build.

You can still read the legendary announcement here and read the Google Chrome comic here for a walk down memory lane.
Three years have passed since then and Google has brought awesome web-services and things are looking good on the user-level as well (clean and effective). The browser (not just Google Chrome but web browsers in general) is getting stronger day by day and Google Chrome is the first choice for those obsessed with speed.

The next step by Google is to provide a rich social experience inside the browser. I am not talking about Twitter or Facebook here. Think of contemporary communication mediums, ones that are still enjoyed by people. Spot on. Google is planning to bring audio and video chat into the browser as an inherent feature. This will eliminate the need for a third party web-app and a third party desktop application alike.

How is Google Chrome Planning on Being a Skype Killer?

WebRTC is an open source project to take things real time inside a browser. This is achieved using JavaScript APIs and HTML5. However, the backbone for the chat will be a service called GIPS, which is another one of Google’s acquisitions. GIPS specializes in Internet telephony and videoconferencing. Google already has the Google Voice card in place and this feature will bring Google as a major player in the VOIP market.

Once live, the technology can be used with anything Google provides or with any third party service that someone creates leveraging these technologies. The possibilities are endless here. This will most likely be Google’s next big  announcement  about Chrome.

Some further technical details are available here . Also, check this chromium mailing list for clarification.

Skype Explains the Big December Failure

skypeOn December 22nd, millions of Skype users were left without service for roughly 24 hours. At the time, Skype was scrambling to get the system back up and didn’t offer a full explanation of what was happening. (what is Skype?)

Earlier today, Skype’s CIO, Lars Rabbe, gave a fairly detailed explanation about the system wide failure. Skype depends heavily on a world wide network of peer-to-peer nodesand supernodesthat are hosted by users running Skype’s software. This network distributes the service’s work load to each Skype user as needed.

According to Lars, a cluster of Skype servers overloaded and threw more of the load onto the peer-to-peer network. Normally, this should have only slowed the network down. Instead, a bug in some of the Windows clients running a newer Skype version, cause many to completely fail. About 50% of the peer-to-peer network stopped responding, and the entire network collapsed like a house of cards.

Skype technicians responded by creating new peers on the network called mega-supernodesto try to recover normal traffic, but the recovery still took a long time.

So what has Skype learned? Can they prevent downtime in the future? Here’s what Lars said about the future:

… we are learning the lessons we can from this incident and reviewing our processes and procedures, looking in particular for ways in which we can detect problems more quickly to potentially avoid such outages altogether, and ways to recover the system more rapidly after a failure.

Skype has become a critical communication tool for many individuals and companies. If Skype can avoid major disasters in the future, they’ll remain the king of VOIP. If not, they have plenty of competition waiting to jump in as a replacement.

Here are some of our previous posts about Skype:

Skype 5.0 Now Available For Mac OS X

Skype has released Skype 5.0 beta for Mac OS X which includes the new group video calling feature and a revamped user interface. The new version also integrates with your Mac address book allowing you to call, IM or SMS your contacts from within Skype.

Skype 5 Mac OS X

Earlier last month, Skype had also rolled out Skype 5.0 beta for Windows with integration and group calling features. Skype 5.0 users can group video call any other Skype 5.0 beta users on Windows or Mac OS X. Skype 5.0 for Mac also includes a new new call control bar which allows users to hang up a call or mute it from a mini Skype bar that sits on top of any web page or documents.

Other features include the ability to search chat history, send messages to users even when they are offline. You can download Skype 5.0 beta for Mac OS from here or learn more about it at the official Skype blog

Watch a video of Skype 5.0 for Mac OS X in action below:

3 Self-Hosted VoIP Applications You Might Not Have Heard Of…Unless You’re a Gamer


If you’ve seen the 2008 movie WarGames: The Dead Code, you would probably remember how the protagonist of the movie plays multiplayer games with his friend, while simultaneously talking to him online using something that most of us refer to as voice chat. (Note!: I’m not encouraging you to watch that movie! It was a flop. If you really have to check out the story, watch the original WarGames, released in 1983. Classic!)

So, the point is not about gaming here. It’s about the talk. We’re gonna talk about VoIP.

If you’re an average user, who uses the internet everyday you must have heard of, and even used some of the popular VoIP applications in the market such as Skype, Fring on mobile devices and Google Voice. The thing about most of these services is that they are run by third party companies, they limit the number of people that can talk simultaneously aka voice conference and/or they are slow. Apart from these services, however, there are quite a few VoIP applications that are better, let practically any number of people to talk without any additional cost and provide various quality options albeit at a little cost. Cost of running a server.

Gamers who engage in multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft etc, often play in groups, called clans. These clans coordinate their gameplay through such VoIP applications. To put things in perspective, if you need ammo, you just say, Hey Captain, I need ammoand then captain says Already on it’s way soldier!. These clans host or get someone to host servers for these VoIP applications so that they can continue their action in full throttle.

Today, I’m gonna talk about three applications that you can use for this purpose and much more. Their basic idea is that you first install the software on your server, then anyone who needs to join the talk can download the desktop client and connect to the server. On the desktop client, the experience is like IRC, or any other group chat where you can text and speak.


screen_ts3_main_macTeamSpeak is one of the oldest contestants in this category. Available at, Teamspeak is multiplatform for both the server and desktop clients. VoIP applications when compared, are graded on the base of quality of sound, codecs used, inbuilt noise cancellation capabilities and latency (the time taken for voice to travel through the interwebs to the desired listeners lower is better). The latest TeamSpeak, version 3, improves on all of these and more. In case of TeamSpeak, the codec used is Speex A free, patent/free audio codec. Also, on TeamSpeak 3, is the ability to join more than one servers using tabs something like IRC.

However, TeamSpeak itself isn’t open source. It’s proprietary and comes with a license and licensing cost.

If you’re going to use it for a not-for-profit activity, Teamspeak is free and allows 32 people (or slots) on it. If you register the application and apply for a license (which is also free, as long as you’re doing not-for-profit), the server can house 512 people at a time. The other licenses, such as those for Commercial organizations, need to be registered and the license cost can be anywhere from $25 to $500 yearly depending on how many people are going to use it.

So, if you just need it for talking to a group at college or school, you’re gonna get it free. But then you’d have to host it on some server, either yours or some one else’s. If you can’t or don’t want to set up your own server for it, you can buy specific TeamSpeak hosting from various service providers such as InstantTeamSpeak, TeamSpeakHost and GameServers which begin at around $3 monthly.


ssmac300_1Ventrilo is another old-school application for gamers, launched about 8 years ago. Commonly referred to as Vent, it is known for its low latency and low cpu usage. Also, Ventrilo uses not one but several codecs such as Speex and GSM and you can customize what quality sound you want in and out, depending on your connection speed.

The server software for Ventrilo is cross platform, however, no Linux client is current available for the desktop.

Like TeamSpeak, Ventrilo is proprietary software. It provides two licenses. Public and Pro. The Public license is free, however, I can’t confirm if there’s a limit to the number of people that can connect to a server when it runs on a public license, but some sources say it’s 8 users.

Also, most people around it’s community say that acquiring a Pro license is very difficult, not because it has requirements such as a minimum 1000 slot count, which should continuously increase, but because Ventrilo is just not giving Pro licenses. So the only option left is setting up our own server with the Public version which is free, or buying hosting with a reseller that already has a license.

Popular resellers include GameServers, NationVoice and InstantVentrilo, the cost for which goes around $3 monthly.


Mumble is the last of this list, and arguably my favorite of all. Point one: It’s open source. Point two: It’s free. Point three: No licensing cost. Point four: No limitation on number of users who can connect. Point five: Very low latency. greenshot_2010-10-09_01-33-51

Mumble uses the Speex codec and the audio quality sounded heaps better than Skype. Also, there is no echo, and Mumble does noise cancellation on the fly. The latency is so low, it’s almost telephone-like. It’s like you’re talking to someone in the same room as you.

Since there are no licensing cost and the application for both server and desktop is free as is, hosting Mumble on your own server won’t cost you anything in the form of licensing, even if you host for your entire school or college. However, the limitations come down to how powerful your server is. Similarly, if you plan to buy hosting for Mumble from a third-party, the cost of it will be considerably lower than the other two counterparts mentioned above, but you’ll be limited by the number of slots or connections. You can choose your hosting plan accordingly.

Another plus point for Mumble is that it can be used for podcasting and general interviews. The upcoming (currently in beta) version of Mumble’s server side app (it’s actually called Murmur the server app, but I prefer to keep it simple) will support recording. Although recording   has nothing to do with the server, it’s the desktop client’s capability, but the developers of Mumble are designing the record feature in such a way that whenever someone starts to record, all the participants of the talk are alerted. This needs the server’s connection. So podcasters, wait a few weeks until Mumble desktop/client 1.2.3 is   released, and then you’d have the option of selecting a competent alternative to Skype that gives better quality recordings!

Hosting your own Mumble presents no limits, however, third-party hosts such as MumbleSlots, VoipServers, GameServers and Sabrienix will limit your usage by slots, that is, they will limit how many people can talk at a time. For example, I got a 10 slot package from Mumbleslots. It usually costs $15 yearly. But they had this offer going on which gave me a flat 50% discount (the offer is still on). So in short, I got an account where 10 people can simultaneously voice chat, for $7 a year and the quality is badass! Literally. Nevertheless, I got it because I wanted the record feature. Native record feature for Interviews for the win!

If you’re interested in trying Mumble out, you can connect to my server and chat up with whoever is there (I may not be present at all times). Just install Mumble and then click this link: Connect to Keshav’s Mumble server Login using a username of your choice.

All these applications were inherently developed for gamers, however, these are just software and technology that you can use with anything you find it suitable for. For example, organizations can host these on their intranet and then everybody in the office building can talk in different channels or rooms for different departments. And yes, these applications support password protected channels, so nobody will be able to peek into the conversations of the HR department!

Happy talking.

Image Credit: jayraz

Gmail May Soon Get Phone Calling, Preparing a Skype Killer?

is no doubt one of the best email service available online, and Google has been adding several features which are not only useful but have also changed the way people have been using online email.


In the past Gmail has added an ability to send SMS messages to users in chat or Google Talk, and now according to reports from Cnet News, Google is preparing to add the ability to call people using Google Talk.

The new feature will make use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) similar to what Skype does to allow users to call other users in US and Canada for free and charge for international calls. According to the information available it would be much lower than the charges you pay to your phone carrier and might even be lower than Skype.

The new feature could be an integration of Gizmo into Google Talk, which Google had purchased in November 2009. It would be interesting to see whether Google integrates this service with Google Voice and allows users to create a number that users could call in and answer the calls using Google Chat.

Skype which is the leader in VoIP calls offers similar service, however, the voice and video quality of Skype is much better than Gmail. Nevertheless, it might not take Google much time to build a solution which rivals Skype or is even better than them.

Earlier last month, a Google Voice Desktop application had leaked which gave users the ability to users to make and receive calls from their desktop. I would definitely want to see this integrated with Google Voice, which would mean that I could use Google Voice on my phone and then use it as a primary way to make or receive calls without having to pay exorbitant charges to my carrier. However, that dream could be a long shot, since there is so much at stake. What do you think?

(Source: Cnet News)

Hackers Crack Skype’s Proprietary VOIP Protocol

Skype is the current leader in VOIP technologies and generates a lot of buzz with each of the developments it makes. Skype holds its VIOP technology as its most prized possession and a hacker has recently managed to crack it!


For obvious reasons, Skype is unhappy at the blog, which pointed this out and brought down the post in question. However, it is still available on  Google Cache.

The author  Sean O’Neil  writes in his blog saying,

For over 10 years, Skype enjoyed selling the world security by obscurity. We must admit, really good obscurity. I mean really really good obscurity. So good that almost no one has been able to reverse engineer it out of the numerous Skype binaries.

It is not all security by obscurity of course. There is plenty of good cryptography in Skype. Most of it is implemented properly too. There are seven types of communication encryption in Skype: its servers use AES-256, the supernodes and clients use three types of RC4 encryption – the old TCP RC4, the old UDP RC4 and the new DH-384 based TCP RC4, while the clients also use AES-256 on top of RC4. It all is quite complicated, but we’ve mastered it all.

O’Neil  wants to say that Skype uses all the security it can to secure its voice data. There are seven encryptions involved in Skype’s protection and it was broken only for educational purpose. The people behind this hack are IT Cryptologists. However, they also admit to the fact that a part of this code was leaked and might be in use by crackers already.

Skype is being very secretive about this and is refusing to make any official reply. Clearly, it is a fault on part of the hackers that this code was leaked. Still, Skype should officially assure its users regarding this security issue.

(News Source)

Google Acquires Global IP Solutions Holding: A VOIP Engine, For $68.2m

Google, on Tuesday announced the acquisition of VOIP solution provider Global IP Solutions Holding. The acquisition announced on Tuesday is estimated at $68.2 million.

This puts all the voice and VOIP communications provided by major IM services like Yahoo,  AOL, WebEx and Lotus at Google’s mercy. Though, Google has lesser plans to put this technology in their IM. That puts these services in a safe position.

Emerick Woods, the CEO of Global IP Solutions (GIPS) remarked on this development saying,

This is an exciting milestone for GIPS as we join Google with a shared vision to transform and accelerate IP communications. With Google’s global reach, scale and widely recognized leadership, we are confident that our existing customers will continue to be fully supported while we continue to enhance and extend our products and technology at Google.

Just last month, GIPS announced that it was introducing a new technology that would allow Android app developers to integrate video and audio chat options into their products. With this acquisition, Google becomes the owner of two VOIP solution providers, the other one being Gizmo5 acquired in November last year.
(Via: ZDNet)

Skype Drops its Support For Windows Mobile

Skype, the VOIP software maker, has withdrawn its support for Windows Mobile. Skype has pulled out both Skype Lite and Skype Mobile for   Windows Mobile from their site. This means, you cannot download the app from the Skype official site but if you already have it installed on your device it will seamlessly work.


Skype for Windows Mobile did not always give the best possible consistent user experience and Skype has grown tired of supporting it. Instead, Skype wants to focus on delivering mind blowing app for the Windows Phone 7 Series. From the Skype blog we’ve decided to make a few changes to our lineup. Skype Lite and Skype for Windows Phones are no longer available for download. This isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly, but the reason is simple. Neither of these apps offered a great Skype experience.

Apart from that, just last week Skype partnered with Verizon to offer free Skype to Skype unlimited calls. If Skype partners with more operators, it can completely eliminate the need for a mobile app. If you ask me, this is an indeed good move by Skype, only late. But we can understand the timing for completely kicking out the support for Skype for WinMo, when Microsoft itself is phasing out Windows Mobile and renaming it to Windows Phone Classic.

Gizmo5 acquired by Google for Google Voice

Gizmo 5 (Gizmo Project, SIPphone) has become yet another one of those independent IM and VoIP communications networks that has been acquired by Google Voice to expand on its work. Though there were several offshoots of this project such as mobile Gizmo5 (as you can see from this cached copy of their old website ), most of these might be replaced by Google’s apps in due time.

Existing users can still access Gizmo5 services and products, but new user signup has been blocked for now. There is still no word on the new features. An integration with Google Talk is highly anticipated!

productFrom the blogpost:-

While we don’t have any specific features to announce right now, Gizmo5’s engineers will be joining the Google Voice team to continue improving the Google Voice and Gizmo5 experience

Skype 2.1 Beta For Linux Gets Video & SMS Support

Linux seems to be getting some real good attention these days. First Pidgin gets an update that featuring support for video calls and now the guys at Skype seem to follow the league.

greenshot_2009-08-29_01-28-28Skype 2.1 Beta for Linux came out this week. Users of the popular VoIP application on the Linux platform had been demanding video support since like ages. They may rejoice now as this Beta release features native video call support, among several other features.

What are the showstoppers?

  • High Quality Video support (640×480 at 30fps)
  • Support for PulseAudio
  • SMS sending support
  • Typing notification in chat (Example: Jack is typing…)

Improvements in Skype 2.1 Beta

  • Enlarged tray icon, also showing number of missed events.
  • Updated ALSA device detection, nicer to USB headsets
  • Birthday reminders are now displayed 24 hours before birthday
  • Calling phone numbers of a contact can be done using context menu
  • Warning dialog when cancelling file transfer

Skype 2.1 Beta is available for most major Linux distributions, namely Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10, Debian Lenny, Fedora 9 and 10 and openSUSE 11

Download Skype 2.1 Beta For Linux | Read the Release Notes

Please note that this is beta software and is still undergoing development. Do not expect butter-smooth experience and stay prepared with your airbags for crazy accidents. Srsly.