Microsoft kills Skype third-party tools for the desktop

Skype has confirmed it's shutting down all third-party access to its desktop API at the end of the year

Mocking the battle cry of "Developers, developers, developers," Microsoft is shutting down the desktop programming interface for Skype, effective the end of this year. Microsoft made the decision to yank the desktop API back in July, informing developers of that decision back then. But the shutdown hit the mainstream fan over the weekend, when the following warning began appearing as users log in to Skype:

Skype says my application will stop working with Skype in December 2013, why is that?

We've been working hard to develop new technologies and make improvements that will benefit Skype users across all platforms, especially on mobile devices. These changes will significantly improve the call quality and speed of delivery of instant messages, while retaining excellent battery life of mobile devices.

As people are using Skype on more devices, we're also working hard to create a more familiar and consistent Skype experience across all major platforms.

The Desktop API was created in 2004 and it doesn't support mobile application development. We have, therefore, decided to retire the Desktop API in December 2013.

[Cough, cough] The Win32 API started in 1987. Yes, I know the Win32 API doesn't support mobile apps. Skype's popular on the desktop, eh? [/Cough, cough]

Microsoft bought Skype in May 2011. The company paid $8.5 billion but apparently didn't earmark enough additional funds to continue its API.

Most of the programs that use the Skype API fall into four categories. There are dozens of recording apps, including VodBurner, Evaer, and Super Tintin, which will need a massive overhaul, assuming they can find a way to adapt.

There are also messaging apps that hook into Skype, such as Trillian, Pidgin, Adium, Kopete/KDE, Miranda, IM+, and fring, which may or may not be able to communicate with the future Skype.

A raft of miscellaneous third-party applications, once encouraged by Skype but now shunned by Microsoft, have already gone out of business, including Yappernut, Ubicall, KishKish, and many more. Other third-party apps will have to adapt, if they can. The Skype App Directory doesn't exist any more.

Most important, if you spent real money on a Skype phone -- one that has Skype controls on the handset or headset -- those fancy buttons won't work after the end of the year. You'll be able to use the Skype phone just like a regular phone or headset -- and that's it. Yes, even if you have an official Skype Certified headset, it'll turn very dumb after the API goes away.

There's no comparable API available without moving to SharePoint, which is hardly a household name. The residual Skype URI API, according to i-Programmer, lets programmers "place a call or start a chat and that's about it... the idea that you can bring existing applications up-to-date is laughable... From a technological point of view it makes no sense, so you can only assume that there is a marketing angle or some other politics in play."

Want to fight this Microsoft decision? There's a petition at Change.org that urges Microsoft to come to its senses:

Millions of Skype users have come to rely on the third party utilities developed by Skype's developer partners for their everyday communications activities, especially small to medium businesses. This petition requests Skype to reconsider this decision until they can provide support for these developers to continue to offer their added funtionality, such as call recording, chat archiiving, chat translation, headset operation to the basic Skype calling experience.

I'm petitioner number 1,029. Call me Sancho Panza.

This story, "Microsoft kills Skype third-party tools for the desktop," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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