Skype’s impact eight years on


Skype celebrated its eighth anniversary a couple of days ago, quietly and with little fanfare. The internet phone service has come a very long way in this relatively short time.

What started in 2003 as a program you installed on your computer that let you make phone calls over the internet (via something quite techie called VoIP), as well as text chat with other Skype users, has evolved into a sophisticated communication system embracing audio, video, mobile, group calling, texting, Facebook and more. It’s often hard to recognize the simple (by comparison) service I started using in 2004 to make phone calls cheaply.

Last May, Microsoft agreed to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash; on completion of the deal, Skype will be incorporated as a division of Microsoft. Potentially, this could mean massive evolution: imagine what Skype technology married to Xbox and Kinect might let people do, for instance.

There’s little doubt that Skype has been the agent of change, the architect, the disrupter, for millions of individuals and organizations large and small and how they all communicate and connect with others more simply and easier today (it was definitely territory for early-adopters and enthusiasts in the early days) and at measurably lower cost.

Phil Wolff – an early Skype pioneer, editor of the independent Skype Journal and source of much knowledge about it – summarizes Skype’s history well:

[…] Skype disrupted international telephone companies, displacing billions of dollars of hard currency with free or very cheap services. Their success has them banned in some countries and declared "an enemy of the state" in others. Didn’t stop them from partnerships with mobile operators from Hong Kong to Italy.

Roughly half the Internet has tried Skype on a personal computer, a mobile phone, or in a device. Skype isn’t ubiquitous but its brand is. And Skype continues to grow.

I’ve written about Skype in this blog during these eight years, commenting on how it’s evolved. One over-riding thought is in my mind – if Skype hadn’t been invented, it’s very unlikely that Shel Holtz and I would have started the For Immediate Release podcast in January 2005, if at all.

Skype has been instrumental in enabling us to do the podcast. Once a week, every Monday (it was twice a week until early last year), Shel and I connect with each other on Skype – he in California, USA, me here in Europe – and chat for an hour. We record our conversation; that recording results in the "FIR Hobson and Holtz Report" podcast each week (try it!) which we’re still doing more than six years later.

In addition, we do interviews where Skype is the means with which we connect to our guests whether they’re on Skype too or via ‘normal’ phone lines, fixed or mobile.

So thank you, Skype, and happy birthday: you made our day, too.

And the future for Skype? Read Phil Wolff’s post for some insight into what might be.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.