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Skype Turns Five

While it can sometimes seem like Skype has been around forever, today only marks the 5th anniversary of the popular VOIP client. When it was first released, Skype marked a huge improvement in voice quality over any other VOIP client at the time. Just a few days after its release, Skype already had close to 10,000 users online at any time. Since then, the company has added plugins, video calls, voicemail, Skype to phone calls, and many other features. Most importantly, though, Skype has changed how we communicate with each other and allowed us to run small, virtual companies.

The early days of Skype were quite exciting thanks to the novelty of the technology (and sometimes fraught with problems), but a good part of the reason for the original hype and success was that Skype’s founders were also behind the notorious P2P file sharing application Kazaa, from which Skype inherited its P2P architecture.

Today, many a virtual business can only run thanks to Skype’s ability to bypass the expensive phone networks. Here at RWW, we use Skype extensively throughout the day, and while other products like Gizmo might offer a similar feature set, nobody else ever got the market penetration that Skype got thanks to its early start.


But besides all the technical innovation, Skype’s biggest news day came in September 2005, when it was acquired by eBay for a staggering $2.6 billion dollars. It doesn’t seem as if anybody ever really understood why eBay decided to buy Skype and go ahead with this deal – or why they ever offered this much money in the first place. eBay never integrated Skype into the rest of its business and it was never quite clear how they would do that anyway, besides giving potential buyers an option to connect with sellers through it. In recent months, rumors have flared up repeatedly that eBay was trying to sell off Skype.

Skype 4

The user interface of Skype 4, which is publicly available, but still in beta, is a radical departure from the previous versions and hasn’t exactly received many accolades for its new design yet. Skype is trying to put more emphasis on ‘conversations,’ but in doing so, the company has abandoned the typical horizontal IM layout for one large window with your contacts list and conversations all in one. This tends to take up a lot of space, though you can pop out chat or call windows.

Overall, we are not big fans of the direction Skype is going in with this new version, but given that it is still in beta, hopefully some of the UI weirdnesses will have been addressed by the time it launches. In order to focus its business more, Skype also just announced that it will disable Skypecasts, Skype’s ability to broadcast to a large group of listeners, effective September 1st.

For the next five years, Skype’s Josh Silverman says that he wants to see Skype move towards ‘liquid communication,’ where neither device nor place matters.

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