Skype is now by far the largest provider of international voice-based communications. Skype's growth rate outpaced that of international phone traffic in 2009. It further skyrocketed in 2010, growing by 45 billion minutes, according to research firm TeleGeography. To put that into perspective, as you can see in the chart below, that is more than twice the volume added by all the world's phone companies combined.

Growth in international call traffic grew by an estimated 4 percent in 2010 to 413 billion minutes. While it's still a positive number, the growth rate is down from a 5 percent rate in 2009 and even more so from the 15 percent average growth rate in the previous two decades. Less frequent international calls may be in part due to the recent recession, which would have affected both business and personal communication. Skype is not, however, following this trend: the service has seen massive growth, particularly in the last two years.

We all know how popular Skype is and that millions rely on it every day; one doesn't have to look further than the recent outage to measure the importance of the VOIP service. That being said, the data above really outlines Skype's continuous dominance and recent growth.

"Demand for international communications remains strong," TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert said in a statement. "But ever more people are discovering that they can communicate without the services of a telco."