There’s a battle brewing in the mobile messaging and VoIP market for mobile phones…and, for once, the controversy doesn’t surround the iPhone and AT&T. VoIP operator Skype has blocked third-party messaging application Fring from connecting to the Skype service, claiming misuse of Skype software and that Fring’s Skype functionality was “damaging our brand and reputation.” For its part, Fring characterizes Skype’s move as “cowardly,” finding irony in being blocked by Skype when Skype itself once carried the openness banner to the Federal Communications Commission, urging regulators to let any lawful, non-damaging device or application be used on wireless networks.
The Fring application acts as a front end for a variety of chat services, enabling users to send messages, engage in voice communications, and place video calls via a variety of services (including Twitter, Yahoo, AIM, Google Talk, Facebook, MSN, and Skype) without having to manage separate applications for each service—and does it all over a phone’s data connection (whether mobile or Wi-Fi) so the services don’t count against SMS totals or voice minutes. Fring recently introduced two-way video calling over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections to its application, and has been scaling up its capacity to meet demand for video services.
Now Fring claims that Skype is blocking their application’s access to the Skype network, meaning Fring users can no longer send messages, chat, or place video calls via Skype. Fring says the move is all about Skype shutting down a competitor: the company notes it has been connecting users to Skype for four years, but the block only happened when Fring rolled out video calling for the iPhone 4.
“We are disappointed that Skype, who once championed the cause of openness, is now attempting to muzzle competition, even to the detriment of its own users,” said Fring co-founder and CEO Avi Schecter, in a statement.