This Summer one of the world’s biggest social networks, VOIP and chat service Skype, released an application developer platform for makers of electronic hardware to integrate features like Skype video calling into their gadgets. Today those same features were made available to developers of desktop applications and the new Skype App Directory was officially unveiled. There aren’t a lot of apps in it yet – but there sure could be soon thanks to the new technical offerings for app developers.

Skype is just one of the many social tools Microsoft purchased to further their social reach.

Skype-powered apps have always been a source of huge unrealized potential. People say that your telephone contact list represents your real social network and the ultimate social graph to build apps on top of, but people do a whole lot of calling on Skype these days too. Add in video calling, screen sharing, text chat, file transfer and the P2P protocol it all runs on top of and what have you got? An awe inspiring opportunity. “Imagine the possibilities of Skype Video Calling directly in one or more of the desktop applications you use each and every day,” the company says, “be it office productivity software or games.”

Now that Microsoft owns Skype, it wouldn’t be a shock if the Skype developer community started getting a whole lot more love.

Here at ReadWriteWeb, we use the Skype API for inbound and outbound messaging. We haven’t used any video chat APIs to date, though options like TokBox and recently the Google Hangouts API have made that seem easier than ever. We are bloggers, though, so pantslessness is an occupational hazard and other forms of communication tend to be more viable on a day-to-day basis.

The app directory is almost entirely filled with call and chat recording apps, which are great, but Skype has so much more potential than that.

Unfortunately, signal quality is not always great on Skype. Cross-platform support is uneven: frustrating for Mac users and maddening for Linux users. Skype’s mobile offerings sometimes feel out of their weight class, too, when up against a big stream of data they are asked to transmit. Many developers have fallen deeply in love with Twilio’s API already, too.

“[Chris Andrews, Senior Business Development Manager at Skype] says that potential products using the API could focus on specific Skype desktop apps for kids, or seniors,” writes Leena Rao at TechCrunch this morning. “He adds that some partners who are using the Video APIs are focused on distance learning and telemedicine opportunities. For, now, there are no plans for a mobile API, he says.”

Will Microsoft and Skype be able to build a thriving ecosystem of apps that let seniors practice telemedicine on kids around the world, record the video, translate the dialogue in text and voice, all while transferring files?

That would certainly be fabulous if they could.

marshall kirkpatrick