SkypePrime - for a 30% cut to Skype, you can charge people to call you and offer fee-based services to the Skype community... (and will it all turn into porn calls?)
UPDATE: Phil Wolff over at Skype Journal has had some great detailed coverage of Skype Prime over at Skype Journal.
News out of Skype today is that a new 3.1 beta includes a new service called SkypePrime, where you can charge someone to call you for either a one-time fee or a per-minute fee. It also marks the beginning of the frequently-discussed integration of Skype and PayPal, because the payments go into your PayPal account. However, the payment is deducted from the payer's SkypeCredit (so you are paying in SkypeCredit and the receiver is getting it in PayPal). Here's the relevant part of the blog entry:
When you call someone who is a Skype Prime call provider, and you both have the new version of Skype, the provider can initiate what we call a “payment request”. That is, all calls start as free, but you can then switch to the paid calling, charging either by the minute or a one-off fixed fee. The call then proceeds as a paid Skype Prime call and your Skype Credit is deducted by the appropriate amount that then goes to the receiver’s account. The provider does not get the call fees directly as Skype Credit — rather, they go into a special holding “box”. The provider then receives the revenue via PayPal.
It's an interesting model that I could see definitely working especialy for consultants, freelancers, etc. If someone calls you up asking you questions about some topic, you could say "I'd be glad to help you, but to do so I need to charge you for the time." You click a button or two and, ta da, you're doing small micro-payments deducted directly from your SkypeCredit account. The Skype/PayPal integration facilitates it all and makes it easy.
Of course, Skype isn't giving this service away for free... as noted on the screenshot to the right (click for larger image), they take a 30% cut of any payments. Note also the list of categories they have set up. When "Astrology & Spiritual" is the first one, you can imagine the type of calls that Skype is envisioning. What is interesting to note is the point Skype makes that this is a global service, whereas traditional pay-per-call services are limited to the local nation in which you live. Hmmm... think the regulators in various countries might not be entirely thrilled about this? (Since they're conceivably losing their tax revenue to Skype?) Interesting to note that if you are an EU resident, you'll also be charged a 15% VAT tax.
The Service Provider Terms of Service actually goes into more details... right now you can only charge between $0.50 and $2.50 USD per minute or between $0.50 and $12 USD per call... interestingly, Skype bills in increments of 1 minute and rounds up to the next minute after five seconds into the new minute.
It's also interesting that this allows pay-per-call video calls... and the security guy in me immediately has to wonder about the usage of this for the sex/porn trade. Calls to 900-number-type-of-services - with video - from the privacy of your PC... and all encrypted across the Internet. Seems like a rather obvious use for that industry. Of course, Skype prohibits this in section 4 of their Terms of Service, but one has to wonder... if this is all truly peer-to-peer, encrypted, etc., how would anyone else know? It will curious to see if Skype is able to keep its SkypePrime Service Providers truly clean and adhering to the TOS.
One thing that's missing, curiously, is any kind of mention of a directory. If I create a SkypePrime service, how can others find that? Obviously I can advertise it on my web page, etc., but one would think it would have been integrated into SkypeFind or some other (global!) service directory. Perhaps that is that the next stage... given that this is just the first public beta.
Lots more to digest in the SkypePrime FAQ. It will be indeed curious to see how much this takes off and whether this does enable people to earn money from the usage. In the meantime, if you have questions about something like, oh, podcast production, for a mere $2/minute, I'll gladly talk to you... ;-)