This is a Review of the eQSL QSL Service. I previously did a review of ARRL LOTW, and in order to be fair to eQSL, (which I use as well as LOTW), I decided to do an eQSL review. The eQSL service is currently running a QSL exchange service, in which one Amateur Operator , SWLers, and others, can swap a digital QSL card. It and the ARRL LOTW program both perform essentially the same function. The major difference is that the ARRL has the awards that most people want, and the eQSL folks do not. eQSL however allows direct exchange of graphic art, so you get to send a QSL card via eQSL, something which is in the design spec for the ARRL LOTW, but so far, I have not found it implemented… eQSL was first to provide an electronic QSL service, with the ARRL right behind them. That gave eQSL an advantage to the technology starved Amateur community, many hams, including myself, ran to eQSL to get signed up. I believe this gives eQSL the edge in total user count at this time. The eQSL signup process is quite simple and fast. It is almost impossible to not compare both eQSL, and LOTW in a review, so here goes…
The ID process:
The ARRL sends a Postcard to your address of record that the FCC provides. eQSL, does essentially the same, this is the Authenticity Guaranteed service eQSL provides. This insures that both services are actually sending information to the actual ham involved in starting an account. The ARRL takes the step a bit further, and forces it’s users to digitally sign the upload. This signing takes a few more steps, and is no doubt more secure than just an ADIF upload as eQSL currently uses. If this level of security is really needed, is a question I can not answer, I assume the ARRL has reason for forcing this, so I accept it. The ARRL way, does cause a few more complications later on, as you renew your digital certificate, but overall it is not too bad…
The User Interface:
The user interface eQSL uses is well thought out, pretty, and useful. In my opinion, it simply blows the ARRL LOTW interface away in coolness factor. It offers a number of options, and is well presented. I wish LOTW has such a nice UI, (User Interface). I will not sing the pareses of the UI for eQSL, just go to their website, and look at it. It is a pleasure to use, and navigates.
eQSL has a nice section on their data center, which does put my mind at ease with regards to backups. They have separate power, on site generators, and I ASSUME, data backup. I did not find anything about data backup, but I can not imagine them not backing it up. They also have 8 network providers, which pretty well guarantees that they will remain on the Internet 99.99% of the time. I have been unable to find information on the ARRL data center, so I can not speak to backups, or network connectivity. I ASSUME is OK, but it would be nice to know if they have a page like eQSL does covering this sort of thing.
eQSL, has a number of ways to swap cards, and they even let you upload an image to use as a QSL. They validate QSO’s, then provide an authentication of the QSO, based on log data. eQSL appears to be trying to differentiate itself from LOTW by offering a set of it’s own awards, and allowing graphical cards to be swapped.
This is the place where eQSL gets hurt… They had to come up with their own awards initially, as the ARRL would not allow them the use of the ARRL awards, which in turn differentiated them from the ARRL awards program, which I believe they needed once LOTW became active. The ARRL does not share QSO validations with anyone, if you want an ARRL award, you MUST use the LOTW, or other ARRL approved ARRL methods. eQSL has an on-line comment page for hams allowing hams to voice their opinions. The ARRL has declined to support QSO validation by eQSL at this time. Again, I imagine the ARRL has it’s reasons, and I suspect it centers on user ID, and QSO validation. I suspect that if I had built a system like LOTW I would not support others validation methods either, so I think this is a no fault for the ARRL, however it does leave the ARRL in the position of basically controlling the awards world. eQSL has a page of people, and groups who support their verification for other awards here.
As of today, (07/02/12), the ARRL has put the CQ WPX awards section on line.
Deep philosophical differences between eQSL and ARRL:
It seems to me that eQSL has some very deep philosophical differences between itself and the ARRL. In some cases eQSL’s treatment of the ARRL seems divisive to me, lines such as, “It pains us to have to give up the extraordinary amount of work we have done over the past year to try to gain acceptance of your eQSLs by ARRL, but we believe now that we never had a chance to begin with.” bother me. While it may or may not be true, to me it has the feel of manipulation. Please remember this is MY perception only, not that of anyone else. See this page for more of what I am feeling here… There are clearly, again, to me, some bad feelings between eQSL and the ARRL. I have no idea what stance the ARRL has taken with regards to eQSL’s efforts, but it is clear to me whatever requests eQSL made, the ARRL said no. They are totally within their rights to do so, and without actual data it is impossible to reconstruct what happened, and who said what, so lets move on…
The ARRL seems to have a total lock on what the average ham perceives as the award to have. I know in my case, if I had a choice of either the eQSL awards, or the ARRL awards, (but not both), I would take the ARRL awards over the eQSL awards every time. No real reason, other than the ARRL awards seem more prestigious to me, and thus I want them to be the ones I get. This seems to me to put eQSL at a huge disadvantage given that there appears to be no sharing in the future between the two services. I QSL via ARRL as my primary QSL service, that is to say, if I had to pick one, I would pick LOTW. I QSL via eQSL as a kindness to the folks that are using eQSL. i.e. I want someone who is using eQSL as his/her only service to get credit for the contact, so I upload my entire logs to both services to be fair to each type of person. This is not to say that either is better, but to say that to be kind, I use both.
eQSL was first! For that I thank them, and will support them. I believe that having eQSL in place is a very good thing, it sets an example: The User Interface is far superior to the ARRL LOTW interface, this puts pressure on the ARRL to do things prettier. It is always good to have some competition, this will keep the ARRL LOTW folks on their collective toes. I firmly believe that having the eQSL service up and running first, caused the ARRL to work faster and harder to get LOTW up and running. Having two services provide contact validation is a good thing for ham radio, by all means use both services! Some hams love eQSL, and others love ARRL LOTW, so use both. If you just want ARRL awards, then by all means upload your ADIF log to eQSL as well as the ARRL to help the hams that are not ARRL Awards motivated. After all this is a hobby where we are supposed to help each other, so help your fellow ham, whatever service you use, upload your logs to the other! Do what you can to support BOTH services!
As of today, 07/02/12, the ARRL has a working implementation of the CQ WPX awards running.