When it was first created, Skype network was built as a decentralized peer-to-peer system. PCs that had enough processing muscle and bandwidth acted as "supernodes," and coordinated connections between other machines on the network. This p2p system was generally perceived as being relatively private, a belief that has since been debunked
. There were several technical challenges, which led Microsoft to move most of Skype's operations to the cloud
. Ars Technica is reporting that the company has finalized the switch. From the article: Microsoft has developed a more conventional client-server network, with clients that act as pure clients and dedicated cloud servers. The company is starting to transition to this network exclusively. This transition means that old peer-to-peer Skype clients will cease to work. Clients for the new network will be available for Windows XP and up, OS X Yosemite and up, iOS 8 and up, and Android 4.03 and up. However, certain embedded clients -- in particular, those integrated into smart TVs and available for the PlayStation 3 -- are being deprecated, with no replacement. Microsoft says that since those clients are little used and since almost every user of those platforms has other Skype-capable devices available, it is no longer worth continuing to support them.
The issue, as the report points out, is that Microsoft is strangely not talking about privacy and security concerns. The article adds: The Ed Snowden leaks raised substantial questions about the privacy of services such as Skype and have caused an increasing interest in platforms that offer end-to-end encryption. The ability to intercept or wiretap Skype came as a shock to many, especially given Skype's traditionally peer-to-peer infrastructure. Accordingly, we've seen similar services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and even Facebook Messenger, start introducing end-to-end encryption. The abandonment of Skype's peer-to-peer system can only raise suspicions here.
Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, said
: "The surprising thing here is not that Microsoft can intercept Skype calls (duh) but that they won't just admit it."