Using the new “Skype for Web”

So, Skype have recently announced a new, web-accessible version of Skype. Currently it’s invite-only, closed beta but I’ve managed to have a look around to see what it’s capable of and how it works. They’ve talked about making it work with WebRTC but at the moment it needs a separate download to get a browser plugin. Thus, a lot of the peer-to-peer features (such as file transfers or audio/video calls) don’t work. The major benefit of the new system is that it complements existing Desktop API or SkypeKit messaging by providing access to the server-stored “thread” chats. It’s also interesting to see that the ‘endpoint’ information for users, including what platform they’re using the Skype client on, is being provided. The downside is that it’s still beta, that it destroyed my buddy list and can’t handle talking to older, pre-microsoft Skype clients or in the older type of multi-user chats — I guess that’s why they’ve been so desperate to block older clients and get everyone moved onto a new version of the client.

Everything (other than login) is mostly JSON message sending/receiving with an HTTP-long polling connection for events. You’ll also need to do a bit of XML parsing for some of the messages, particularly for some metadata about chat rooms (adding/removing users). The ‘protocol’ also can’t make up it’s mind about whether it wants to identify a user or conversation by a URL or a id. Probably the worst part about it is how very sensitive it is to be 100% exact.

Ah well. I’ve been working on a new plugin for the last week, if anyone else is interested in testing it out. It’s got a few bugs, a few segfaults but the hard part is out of the way. Please grab it from svn on googlecode, the skypeweb subfolder of trunk, give it a compile and email me when you find all the fun bugs 🙂

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