Internet Phone Service Creating Chatty Network

Ethan Todras-Whitehill in the New York Times:

JOHN PERRY BARLOW is pretty free and open, but he’s no simpleton. So when he signed on to Skype, a free Internet phone service, and a woman identifying herself as Kitty messaged him, saying, “I need a friend,” he was skeptical. He figured she was “looking for ‘friends’ to come watch her ‘relax’ in her Webcam-equipped ‘bedroom.’ “

Nevertheless, he took the call. “Will you talk to me?” she said. “I want to practice my English.”

Kitty turned out to be Dzung Vu My, 22, a worker at an oil company in Hanoi, Vietnam. They spoke for a long time, exchanging text, photographs and Web addresses, and discussing everything from the state of Vietnam’s economy to Ms. My’s father’s time in the army.

“One doesn’t get random phone calls from Vietnam,” Mr. Barlow, 57, the former Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization for an unfettered Internet, wrote on his blog. “At least, one never could before.”

Mr. Barlow’s experience is not unique. Skype users report unsolicited contacts every day, and contrary to such experiences with phone and e-mail, the calls are often welcomed.

Skype was founded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the creators of Kazaa, a peer-to-peer file-sharing service.

More here.