How Skype Works

Here's a good document from Skype to consult regarding the working of the Skype P2P system. In this document, there is a discussion of Skype's propriety global index distributed directory, "through which users can find out about each other, place calls, send messages and communicate, all without using any central servers." The system is based on the use of client nodes as "super" P2P nodes. Supernode activity is entirely transparent to the users. However, clients behind firewalls and NATs are ineligble for adopting this role. In a sense, they get a free ride and don't have the honor to serve the network. Unfirewalled "supernodes" perform a key role in maintaining the index and routing calls among firewalled clients (or among clients behind NAT devices).

By the way, you might be interested in know that during the recent eBay acquision of Skype, Skype founders did not travel to the U.S. following legal advice given to them due to proceedings in courts, naming them in the Kazaa file-sharing cases. What does that tell you regarding climate of innovation here?

Comments:

Given that an increasing number of people using broadband services are behind firewalls, or otherwise in some form of NAT environment, how long will the supernodes last? The entire system relies upon enough supernodes being available (in an honour system) to support the indexing.

Posted by Warren on September 25, 2005 at 09:35 PM PDT #

Warren,

I thought about that, too, but then again, if not enough supernodes remain (which is not an entirely unlikely situation) and all live behind NATs and Firewals, we will no longer be having an "Internet" quite as we have come to know it.

While others might differ, I believe regulatory moves to shut down P2P systems to be extreme and damaging to innovation on the Internet. As long as there are no legal boundaries for hosting the supernode, a company like Skype, with its financial and technical resources, could fund enough supernodes around the globe to continue making this service a possibility

Posted by M. Mortazavi on September 25, 2005 at 10:48 PM PDT #

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