Home Cross Your Fingers: Zennstrom and Friis Might Buy Back Skype From eBay

Cross Your Fingers: Zennstrom and Friis Might Buy Back Skype From eBay

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, are trying to pile up enough cash from investors and their own bank accounts to buy the company back from eBay, according to an admirable scoop of a report by Brad Stone at the New York Times today.

Zennstrom and Friis sold Skype to eBay for roughly $3 billion in 2005 but no one was quite sure why. The remaining Skype team has done a fair job continuing to innovate inside the much slower moving eBay, but we’ve got our fingers crossed: a buy-back by the founders would likely put innovation in the driver’s seat again at Skype.

When the original sale was made, everyone waited to find out about some ingenious integration of the two companies. Some said the technology would enable interested buyers to call sellers online on eBay but that hardly seemed worth billions. In fact the integration never came. Skype caught fire, growing 8X since the acquisition, bringing in $500 million a year in revenue and even getting a regular spot on the Oprah show and other mainstream media. According to Stone’s write-up, there are now 400 million Skype users – that’s twice as big as Facebook. In fact we wrote last month that Skype might be the biggest winner of the web 2.0 era.

It’s not been a happy marriage, though. Ebay has suffered an existential crisis, technology integration never came and now a patent fight over the core P2P technology that Skype’s inventors retained rights over is going to court. If the details of all the fighting is of interest, that’s one more reason to read the Times’s reporting on this. What we’re interested in is what this could mean for the technology of Skype.

Let’s See What They’ve Got, Again

We want to see Zennstrom and Friis put on the Skype jerseys again and crank one out of the park. The two have been P2P geniuses since the start, they just got some failure out of their systems with Joost and we want to see what they’ll do next with a technology we and millions of other people around the world use every day.

Get Skype out of the stuffy old confines of eBay and back in the action! We’d love to see a really strong Skype voice app for Nokia and iPhones that kicks the overstuffed carriers right were it hurts – the time is right now or soon. How about an enlivened developer platform? Those are hipper now than they were when Skype was born! We’d also love to see some enhanced security so people in repressive regimes can use it again without worrying that a back door is going to let them be spied on as the Chinese government has been, for example.

The possibilities are many and we hope that Zennstrom and Friis can do what it takes to retake the wheel. Good luck gathering those billions, guys, a Skype buyback is an exciting thing to think about.

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