Skype the disrupter and enabler ten years on


On August 29, 2013,  Skype celebrated its tenth anniversary.

From small beginnings a decade ago as a VoIP telephony service – letting you make free phone calls via the internet to other Skype users – Skype today is recognized as having been a major influencer in the disruptive changes we’ve seen in this time with regard to not only how people can and want to communicate with one another wherever they are in the world, but also the mindset shifts and behaviour changes that are part and parcel of bringing social media and the ‘human approach’ to communication into the mainstream.

I started using Skype nine years ago, in August 2004. The cost benefits were clear! Although it’s no longer my primary communication tool, I still use Skype a great deal today, most definitely for international calls and usually if I want to make a video call (although Google+ Hangouts are increasingly a viable and convenient alternative). My wife chats to her sister and family in Costa Rica for an hour or more via Skype video almost every day. For free!

For my part, the activity where Skype has had the biggest and most durable impact has been with the business podcast I co-host with my friend and colleague Shel Holtz.

Shel and I started For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report in January 2005 (so we’re now in our ninth year). We record each episode – originally two a week but now weekly – over Skype as Shel’s in California, USA, and I’m in the UK (when we started, I was in The Netherlands).

If Skype had not been around, it’s highly doubtful that Shel and I would have started FIR at all. Apart from the obvious cost aspect – can you imagine the cost of a 60- or 90-minute trans-Atlantic phone call every week? – there’s the technical complexity of actually trying to record that with a traditional phone system.

As we all know, with Skype you just need a computer, an internet connection and some free software. Today add mobile devices to the mix.

In sum, the barriers to entry are close to zero – one reason why growth in Skype usage worldwide over these ten years has been huge.

Skype connects...

Today, Skype is a cog in the Microsoft wheel, having been acquired by the software giant in October 2011.

But here’s to you, Skype – thanks for your disruption that enabled so many to do so much.

And so the tenth anniversary is a good marker to note what Skype may or can do in the coming years. I’ve noted some thoughts on the past decade: other, well-informed voices look to the future:

Om Malik: Happy 10th birthday Skype. You changed everything; too bad you didn’t change Microsoft – “After disrupting the telecommunications industry, Skype is facing an uncertain future and increased competition. It is increasingly being assimilated into Microsoft and its enterprise communications business. Will the brand last another 10 years? I am not so sure…”

Dan York: 10 Years Of Skype – Massive Disruption… But Will Skype Remain Relevant? – “Skype has indeed MUCH to celebrate on it’s 10th birthday. And yet as Skype turns ten, I find myself wondering what the next 10 years will be like… and whether Skype will remain relevant…”

Stuart Henshall: Skype’s First Decade – A Wasted Opportunity – “Skype for a time has made the world a better place. Yet today 10 years on there is no apparent direction, no sense that Skype will impact the next 10 years like it did the last…”

Henry Mance, Financial Times: Skype’s first decade reflects a trail of missed opportunities – “Microsoft’s stewardship of Skype has been more productive than eBay’s. The company will pre-install Skype on Windows 8.1, its latest operating system, and has plans to integrate the software with the Xbox games console. Microsoft does not break out the revenues it receives from Skype, but the number of monthly users of Skype has grown from 200m when Microsoft acquired it to 300m in February…”

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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.

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