In February 2013, cloud-storage guru and founder of the now defunct MegaUpload Kim Dotcom began dropping hints that his new venture, Mega, was destined to be much more than a successor to MegaUpload. He said that in the coming years, the new company would expand to include, among other things, video, chat and calling services.
After Megaupload was shutdown as a result of the United States reporting Dotcom’s alleged copyright infringement to other countries, he decided to strategically locate his new venture in New Zealand. The relocation, Dotcom believes, is an affirmation of the company’s commitment to privacy. He felt that user data would be better protected in New Zealand which was important because, as Dotcom hinted, future Mega applications would require encryption. In fact, he criticized the popular video chat Skype for not having sufficient encryption to protect their users’ privacy. Mega received funding from BitCoin, a nearly untraceable payment platform that fit well with Mega’s theme of privacy and protection from the government.
Dotcom is currently battling to avoid extradition. His New Zealand mansion was raided in 2012, and he was subsequently arrested after being charged with criminal United States copyright violations. Dotcom countered by saying that the warrants used in the search were not legal and was able to get them invalidated in a June 2012 hearing. This bought him some time, however, the ruling was overturned, and he is now facing the possibility of extradition.
In late December 2014 ,nearly two years after that he had plans to go head-to-head with Skype by launching a fully encrypted video call service, Dotcom announced that he had done just that. MegaChat is a fully encrypted, in-browser video chat service in which registered users can enjoy end-to-end video and audio communication for free.
According to Dotcom, over half a million Mega users made encrypted video calls using MegaChat in the first hour following its launch on January 21, 2015. Dotcom also said he will roll out MegaChat beta one feature at a time. He stated via Twitter that text and video conferencing are on the way. MegaChat is expected to have over 100 million users by the end of 2015.
Since the Snowden debacle in which in was suggested that NSA has had access to users’ Skype chats since 2011, the future of the platform has been on shaky ground. With the proliferation of other web-based video and voice chat mediums such as Firefox Hello, a Firefox plug-in that allows ad-hoc anonymous, Skype-style chats and now the heavily encrypted MegaChat, Skype will have to reevaluate its models if it wants to say on top. Currently, they are working on a Web RTC-based plug-in for in-browser chat.
Pundits believe that since MegaChat’s end-to-end encryption gives it a clear advantage over Skype, it could very well turn out to be the “Skypekiller” that it claims to be. So far, its usability has proved fine, but only the coming months will tell whether or not MegaChat will live up to its lofty security claims. If it does, users might just find themselves hanging up on Skype forever and opting to use MegaChat instead.