For years, I maintained a Skype number that’d forward to whatever phone number I happened to be using at the time. It was the only way to make myself reachable on the phone, despite my switching to a new mobile number every time I moved to a different region. It worked well enough—until last year when Microsoft redesigned the iOS version of their app to make it damn near unusable as a phone forwarding service. I hated Skype’s mobile makeover so much that I decided not to renew my annual plan with the service. If you want to find me, these days, it has to happen via Twitter or email. It seems that users of Microsoft’s desktop version of the app have all sorts of loathing for its recent redesign as well. According to The Verge, the backlash against version 8.0 of the app has been so widespread that it’s put Microsoft back on its heels.
From The Verge:
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Last month, Microsoft announced it would be shutting down the desktop version of Skype 7.0, otherwise known as classic Skype, in September and transitioning users and businesses to the redesigned Skype 8.0. Following what the company describes as “customer feedback,” classic Skype will be sticking around for “some time” to “bring all the features you’ve asked for into Skype 8,” per Windows blog Thurrott. Skype 8 was first unveiled as a mobile redesign last year, inspired by trends set by Facebook and Snapchat, and it was widely disliked at the time as well.
Signal is an encrypted messaging app for smartphones and desktops that I and a lot of other folks use on a daily basis to communicate with discretion and security. I like it so much that I've moved away from using other services on my iOS and Android phones to using Signal for all of the texting I do, even with those who don't use the app. Unfortunately, according to The Verge, the Signal team is having a difficult time trying to provide its services to users in the UAE, Egypt and Oman, where the app has been banned by the government. Considering the fact that these states aren't known for treating political dissidents and minorities none too well, that's a big deal. For some people, encrypted comms are essential to avoiding incarceration or worse.
The crux of Signal's issues with providing services to users in these countries is that Amazon, whose CloudFront web services Signal's parent company, Open Whisper System, uses, has banned domain-fronting. Domain-fronting, put simply, is a technique for making traffic from one site look like it's from another site. In an email received by Open Whisper System's founder, Moxie Marlinspike (best damn name in the business,) the General Manager of Amazon CloudFront called Open Whisper Systems' domain-fronting out, telling Marlinspike that Amazon would love to have their business, but not his company refuses to comply with their no domain-fronting policies.
From the email:
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When access to Signal was originally censored in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and UAE, we responded by through Google App Engine.