Skype has gone from popular free calling app, to promising acquisition, to utterly mismanaged...

Julio Franco

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Skype is one of those big success-fail-success stories we often only see in the tech industry. The brainchild of two scandinavian tech entrepreneurs, Skype was a pioneer in peer-to-peer communication, making video calls feasible even in slow Internet connections dating to the mid-2000s. The company was initially sold to eBay, then recovered by an investment fund who was looking for shoppers or a potential IPO, then finally sold to Microsoft in 2011 for a pretty $8.5 billion.

As an avid Skyper in the early days, I recall recommending it to friends and colleages for free calls and video conference that worked like nothing else. But just like Microsoft ignored the shift to mobile computing, Skype also lagged behind the innovation curve, for a while living as a solid but somewhat antiquated Windows application with so-so Mac support that monetized through international calls at low rates. By the time Skype made it to mobile (and even to this day) it arrived as a painfully slow, battery-draining application that often fails to deliver a smooth experience.

Microsoft did its part over the years as well. First merging Skype logins with Microsoft Passport, a messy and unnecessary transition that had average computer users -- who relied and maybe even loved the application to communicate with family -- frustrated by the change.

In the midst of Windows' shift to "Metro" apps, Microsoft also tried to push Skype as a pre-installed app resulting in two distinct versions of Skype installed on the same computer, using separate login screens, and not a clear path of which of two was the one to use. By then the desktop application had been redesigned more than once and neither the desktop application nor the Metro app were great choices.

At the peak of its popularity Skype had become a verb -- before mobile messaging platforms like BlackBerry Messenger, iMessage or WhatsApp exploded -- I recall using Skype for personal communication, replacing other forms of instant messaging and receiving plenty of requests from work contacts to communicate using the platform. Since then Slack, Hipchat and other work collaboration platforms have flourished. Even Microsoft built its own collaboration platform called Microsoft Teams to counter other big-name enterprise competitors entering the space like Cisco.

Most recently Microsoft has split Skype in two: for consumers, Skype remains a messy looking application that looks like a Snapchat clone, with awful mobile call quality. And for enterprise clients, Skype for Business has replaced Microsoft Lync, is set to merge with Microsoft Teams, and tie up with Office 365.

A Bloomberg article gives some detail of where Skype stands today with big clients and how Microsoft has succeeded by selling Skype for Business to corporations like General Electric. GE rolled out the service to 220,000 employees in late 2017 and is reportedly logging 5.5 million meeting minutes a day. Other enterprise customers include some of the largest US banks and big companies in Europe where Skype has historically been a very popular brand. According to a Forrester survey comprising over six thousand IT workers, 28% said they use Skype for Business for conferencing, compared with 21 percent for Cisco’s products.

As far as opportunities missed, Microsoft pioneered real-time translation and Skype was very much part of that dating back to 2014. However you'll be hard pressed to find someone suggesting Skype is leading communication as it once did, offering unmatched call quality, let alone consistency. So while public perception is not on Microsoft's side on this one, Skype is living to see another day.

Masthead image credit: Neowin

Permalink to story.

 

Branic

TS Rookie
Skype for Business is not a replacement for Lync; it IS Lync, they just rebranded the existing app. The Skype 2013 executable was even lync.exe . You can't really compare the home and business versions because they're not the same app. Skype is Skype, Skype for Business is Lync with a sticker placed over the name.
 
J

Jamlad

Is there an alternative to Skype for international calls to my Meemaw?

And yes, I often wonder how MS UX designers can justify their jobs and redesigns. Win8/10? Metro? Skype? Ribbons? I understand that people are always resistant to change but change is not always for the better. Offhand I can't think of any Apple UX choices that frustrate me beyond Finder.

I was going to criticize Apple for their gestures and controls because even I don't know half of them (and wouldn't unless I was a child with time to play around), but that being said the basic gestures are intuitive enough for even my grandfather to embrace. And he struggled with the Nokia-esque, one layer of abstraction of buttons and menus on phones. And how many people know their OS keyboard shortcuts beyond ctrl-z/x/c/v?
 
  • Like
Reactions: psycros

Cycloid Torus

Stone age computing - click on the rock below..
The Skype beast reminds me of an RPG Boss which morphs whenever it takes a moderate amount of damage - flipping from 'fire' to 'air' to 'water' - but not really that good at any of them - regains health for a moment and the begins dying again....until in some distant moment it is finally defeated.
 

DaveBG

TS Evangelist
I liked Skype back in the day. It was simple. Now it's like bloatware, full of bugs, ads and spyware. Trust Microsoft to **** anything up.
Exactly. From 100% of all people I know using it before, now no one even remembers what it is and we mostly use viber and other alternatives...
 
  • Like
Reactions: psycros

kapital98

TS Guru
I'm a long time user of Skype. The monetization aspects from a decade ago were unfortunate but understandable.

What has really upset me is when Microsoft bought it and then has put up every roadblock possible to force you to use a OnePass and their Windows Store. I want to use my old standalone login and the desktop software. I'm not part of the M$ ecosystem (and don't wish to be considering Google, Amazon, and FB already have me for enough).

The result is a really bloated, inefficient set of software that has some of the worst elements of the 10 years ago (a large download for a simple application) and of now (constantly trying to integrate me with the rest of M$'s unwanted content).

I'll still use it because it's the industry standard for many fields and it's got great rates for international calls. I still have some friends who use skype over other messaging platforms. But it will need a lot of work on the consumer side if they plan on expanding or keeping people around.
 
  • Like
Reactions: psycros

tipstir

TS Ambassador
Scammers use Skype today and trick you into thinking they're woman trying to date you on there. So you just have to be careful today they use it like dating site instead it Skype. They'll tell you that the web cam is broken so there isn't any audio either. Make sure you have your contacts lock down and know who can contact you on that app. I don't use Skype anymore... Google Hangouts, Face Book Messenger, Whatapps, Kik app they all have the same thing in-common with Skype they can be a breathing ground for Scammers!
 

treeski

TS Evangelist
I honestly don't know what all the hate is about. Yes, the UI has evolved over the years, not always for the best. At the end of the day, I've never had issues sending messages or making video calls, which is all I care about.
 

Misagt

TS Evangelist
It was also a big choice for many causal gamers for years as it was the easiest thing to use. Although now Discord and Twitch have completely taken over those markets by providing a better product.
 

aMerkuri

TS Enthusiast
Scammers use Skype today and trick you into thinking they're woman trying to date you on there. So you just have to be careful today they use it like dating site instead it Skype. They'll tell you that the web cam is broken so there isn't any audio either. Make sure you have your contacts lock down and know who can contact you on that app. I don't use Skype anymore... Google Hangouts, Face Book Messenger, Whatapps, Kik app they all have the same thing in-common with Skype they can be a breathing ground for Scammers!
Sorry mate I think you are the only one who has fallen into this trap. I use Skype all day for work and no woman tried to contact me nor date me.
 

Arris

TS Evangelist
Scammers use Skype today and trick you into thinking they're woman trying to date you on there. So you just have to be careful today they use it like dating site instead it Skype. They'll tell you that the web cam is broken so there isn't any audio either. Make sure you have your contacts lock down and know who can contact you on that app. I don't use Skype anymore... Google Hangouts, Face Book Messenger, Whatapps, Kik app they all have the same thing in-common with Skype they can be a breathing ground for Scammers!
Sorry mate I think you are the only one who has fallen into this trap. I use Skype all day for work and no woman tried to contact me nor date me.
I had a Polish "woman" randomly start chatting to me on Skype, and this was while logged on with an ID of "CompanyName_Development" and not a personal account. Sending pictures and everything. Very sketchy.

Current design of Skype = meh. Preferred having separate contacts list and chat window, that way would take up less screen real estate, the new "modern" UI version sucks.
 

tipstir

TS Ambassador
I had a Polish "woman" randomly start chatting to me on Skype, and this was while logged on with an ID of "CompanyName_Development" and not a personal account. Sending pictures and everything. Very sketchy.

Current design of Skype = meh. Preferred having separate contacts list and chat window, that way would take up less screen real estate, the new "modern" UI version sucks.
Same thing happens to me a lot, so I've changed my security settings they don't bomb me with fake pictures, who they are or what they are trying to be. Fake and are scammers looking to take your development payroll. That's why they seek us IT professionals out because there mind we have a lot of money... LOL
 
  • Like
Reactions: Arris

tipstir

TS Ambassador
Sorry mate I think you are the only one who has fallen into this trap. I use Skype all day for work and no woman tried to contact me nor date me.
No there are others too.. I am no fallen for any trap my friend, who's going after anyone like that you don't know who they are and when they start hitting you up for itune cards purchases or pay for there data and internet link. Time to say see ya!
 

Kibaruk

TechSpot Paladin
I honestly don't know what all the hate is about. Yes, the UI has evolved over the years, not always for the best. At the end of the day, I've never had issues sending messages or making video calls, which is all I care about.
I'm there with you, although I've never really used Skype on a regular basis it's enough.
 
  • Like
Reactions: treeski

kcwilsonii

TS Rookie
Skype for business is great.

Skype for home not so much.

Hence the problem, Microsoft has forgotten to support the home user just like the business user
they are when they are working at home.

So they need ONE version. Not two, just dumb.
 

Impudicus

TS Maniac
By making skype for home complete garbage, skype for business became the only option for business. In the past the home version could be used in many business settings, not so much anymore. Really isn't good for anything anymore.