The Chinese government, notorious for its internet censorship habits, has announced that it's cracking down on illegal VoIP (voice over internet protocol) companies, and Skype may be among those facing the firing squad.
According to Bloomberg
, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is expected to make all VoIP companies except those run by state-run telecoms companies, such as China Telecom and China Unicom, illegal.
A circular released by the ministry stated, "Currently, our ministry is working with relevant departments to focus on the crackdown of illegal VoIP [voice over internet protocol calls] and we are now appealing to the public for clues for illegal VoIP cases."
The ministry has even solicited the help of the public in its new endeavour, setting up a government hotline to collect reports from the public.
Jennifer Caukin, a spokeswoman for Skype stated, "Users in China currently can access Skype via TOM Online, our majority JV partner. TOM Online offers local versions of Skype for Windows, MAC as well as mobile platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile. More details can be found at skype.tom.com."
It is quite obvious that this decision is part of China's broadening internet censorship crusade, with some Chinese activists known for using services such as Skype to communicate outside government channels. The country also bans Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube, some of the biggest sites on the internet.
While Skype may be threatened, the last nail in the coffin hasn't been hammered in quite yet. Professor Kan Kaili from the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications told the Telegraph
that, "it is very unlikely that they will manage to shut Skype down."
He said, "Skype is the market leader, but there is also MSN and Gmail Talk. The children of Chinese government officials, who are studying abroad, use these services to call home, so I do not think anyone is going to cut the lines."
Then of course, there is almost always a way to get past the government filters, with Kaili saying, "Even if they take a strict approach, such as getting local operators to block the broadband services of people who use Skype, people will still find a way around it."
For now Skype is still available in China, but only time will tell how long it will stay that way. Its future is definitely not assured, as even our biggest internet overlords Google is blocked by the great firewall of China.