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Skype And Fring Engage In A War Of Words

by Sean P. Aune | July 13, 2010July 13, 2010 8:00 am PDT

It seems that the makers of the mobile app Fring and leading VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service Skype will not be sending each other seasons greetings this year.

Last week Fring opened up its popular iPhone application to the ability to make Skype account video calls over 3G, something the official Skype app has been missing due to AT&T and Apple rules.  After a huge spike in video call volume, Fring shut down the service temporarily while it put some more equipment in place to handle the call volume, but the company is now saying that was all for naught as Skype has turned off their access to their API (application programming interface). On the flip side, Skype is saying it didn’t turn off Fring’s access, but instead the app maker chose to remove it of its own accord.

fringskypeskyscraperWhat we have now is what resembles a schoolyard yelling match of, “I know you are, but what am I?” between two well known companies in the techsphere.  Fring released a press release that was pretty scathing, calling the removal of its access to Skype an “anti-competitive ambush” and “cowardly” in a blog post on the matter.  Fring also went on to say Skype was threatening them with legal action over the incident.

Skype spelled out its side of the story in a follow-up blog post saying that Fring had been violating Skype’s API Terms of Use and End User License Agreement, as well as damaging its brand name for some time.  Skype claims the two companies had been in talks for some time over the situation, and that they were disappointed by the video call situation, but that they did not lock Fring out of the service, and the decision had solely been Fring’s.

The two stories are so divergent that it is difficult to guess which is closer to the truth, but what immediately raises flags with me that this Skype is in the right is three points:

  1. The use of inflammatory language by Fring (“anti-competitive”, “cowardly”) is usually, but not always, a sign of someone trying to stir up sympathy for their cause.
  2. Fring pointed out in the press release how you couldn’t talk to your Skype friends any more, but if you invited them to join Fring instead …
  3. At the end of the day, Skype’s service is its own.  If Fring was indeed violating the Terms of Service for the API, the company has every right to cut off a third-party from using it.

Who knows how this will resolve, or who is in the right, but we have to say Skype has to be applauded for at least being somewhat classier about the whole thing.  How can an action taken by a company to protect its own brand that is being used by another service be considered “anti-competitive”?  That wording is going to baffle me for ages.  Yes, yes, I know Fring also offers free video calls, but “anti-competitive” implies federal legal action could get involved, and it’s going to be hard to prove when it is Skype’s own service.

What say you?  Who do you think is in the right here, or even telling the truer version of events?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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