Suspicious Skype Issues

12 May 2005

For about half a year now, I’ve been using software called Skype to communicate by voice with friends back home. In the past month or two I’ve even gotten my family into it, and we’ve enjoyed an excellent connection (at least as good as long distance phone calls) many times. The really great part, of course, is that it’s completely free. The network connection uses similar technology to Kazaa, the popular file-sharing (P2P) software.

Jump back to several months ago. Major Chinese entertainment portal Tom.com partnered up with Skype. Advertisements for Skype appeared throughout the Shanghai subway system and around town. Tom.com was apparently putting a lot of money into promoting Skype, which, I should remind you, is free software.

My favorite pretty boy is even pushing Skype

Now here’s the interesting part. For about the past 2-3 weeks, I have noticed that I can no longer access Skype.com in Shanghai without a proxy. (Skype.com is accessible in Beijing and Hangzhou, however.) Due to some issues with my Skype installation (which I later discovered was a driver conflict), I wanted to reinstall with the newer version of Skype. Since I couldn’t access the Skype website, my only easy option was to get Skype from Tom.com.

Predictably, it had Tom.com advertising built in, but I was able to install English-mode Skype; I wasn’t forced to use Chinese. Fortunately there seems to be none of the spyware or malware that plagues Chinese software.

Screen capture of Tom.com’s version of Skype

I find it strange that Skype.com should become inaccessible in Shanghai after making a deal with Tom.com. I would think that Tom.com would have the guanxi to protect its partner fromthe chill shadow of the Great Firewall. On the other hand, since the Tom.com Skype page still works just fine, maybe Tom.com is using its guanxi to force Chinese surfers to use its version of the Skype software in order to drive more traffic to Tom.com?

This is all just crazy speculation, though. It’s likely just another case of Shanghai’s fickle internet connection, especially since Tom.com seems to be Beijing-based. I should note, however, that last week when the internet connection in Shanghai was faster than it had been in a long time and even sometimes-blocked sites were loading too, Skype still did not work.

Skype could be a great tool for global communication, and it’s great that many Chinese users are now getting into it. I hope that China doesn’t screw this good thing up.

Update: Isaac Mao was all over this when it first went down. The issue that neither Isaac nor Fons Tuinstra, in his comments, address is why Skype is accessible in other parts of China, but not Shanghai.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. John:

    About two weeks ago, Fons Tuinstra wrote about this topic:

    http://www.chinaherald.net/2005/04/internet-has-skype-been-blocked.html

    His conclusion: “”Skype itself is limiting access to its international site in China, to get more traffic to its local partner Tom.”

    btw: I really like your blog!

    from Germany with deep respect
    Marian (Âí¿Ë)

  2. Marian,

    Thanks for that info. I can’t stay on top of all the blogs.

  3. Da Xiangchang Says: May 13, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    It’s funny, but I never heard of Skype until this site, then I read about it in a NY Times op-ed piece. It mentions a certain Shanghai university too:

    Friedman Article

    Interesting stuff, though I don’t buy the central idea behind the article at all. Still, Thomas Friedman’s one of the few columnists I can read from the NY Times without gagging. He has good things to say about China and globalization.

  4. Very hard to make sense out of what is happening with Skype, John, since they have not addressed the issue themselves, we can only speculate. My idea is that they just want to look whether blocked their site in Shanghai is working or not, or perhaps makes people upset. When all goes well, they can expand to other places.
    Anyway, I use now Google Web accelerator as my superproxy and that also beats the Skype block.

  5. Suspicious Skype Issues

    Is Skype going to force users to watch advertising? Here’s an interesting post on just that:…

  6. joeldavidmeyer Says: January 20, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Skype has been blocked by the BTL ( Belize Telecommunications Limited) the monopoly phone/internet provider in Belize.
    Does anyone know a way to go around this and access the blocked site?

  7. I’m in Belize too most of the year and have had probelms with connectivity – the SKype forums are alive with chatter and many have had success by changing the port configuration – BTL deny having blocked the service…

  8. I have been talking on Skype in Belize for a few months up to the beginning of November, However, I heard that BTL installed some high tech jamming equipment recently and it blocks the calls…

  9. Hello,

    Belize internet provider BTL is blocking VoIP softwares such as Skype.

    The only solution that works is the “personalVPN” from Witopia. It costs 39,99$ per year and is really simple to use.

    http://www.witopia.net/

    The personalVPN encrypte your connection to a US IP address, with this method Belize Telecom can’t detect that you’re using Skype or another VoIP software!
    In addition, it protects your computer against hackers!

    It works on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Macintosh OS X, and Linux.

    I hope we’ll see you back soon on Skype…

  10. You can still use skype and access all blocked sites using a VPN Services to Unblock Skype

    Unlike other providers of vpn, they will put you back online even if service gets blocked.

  11. Try Black Byte Networks ( http://www.blackbytenetworks.com) to unblock skype, websites etc. It is not just a VPN, it is an unblocker, and has built in technology to switch server IP addresses in case the server IP is blocked. It has a 7 day free trial also.

    regards,
    Sandy

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