Skype to stream live news conference about iPhone app from CTIA - Tuesday
Skype on the iPhone: Some initial thoughts...

Skype for iPhone - All I Want From It Is....

skype_logo.pngIn case you've been under a rock, or are just tuning in from a long weekend, Skype is releasing "Skype for the iPhone" tomorrow and will apparently follow that with a Skype for the Blackberry application in May. GigaOm ran with the story last week, CNET came out with an "it's official" story last night and then seemingly everyone and their brother and sister came out with stories today about it. (Phil had nice pictures over at Skype Journal.) It's been a big day for Skype - and the formal launch isn't even until tomorrow. Expect that we'll see a large number of stories tomorrow when people actually are able to install the Skype for iPhone app and start playing with it. (And yes, I'll probably write one, too.)

What's fascinating and perhaps incredibly predictable is that almost all of these articles talk about how this brings Skype's free calling to the iPhone... about how this will make it easier for people to make cheaper calls... how it is integrated in with the iPhone Address Book for easy calling... about how this disrupts voice and calls... about how this will make cheap calls available... about how nice the GUI is... about how calls will be cheaper...... (Do you detect a theme?)


While all this is true, I personally don't really care. Sure, it will be great to be able to receive a Skype call and sure, it be great to be able to make a Skype call (all on WiFi of course). Sure, all that's great.

But there is one single thing that I am looking for in this Skype for iPhone application that has been missing from Fring, IM+, TruPhone and every other iPhone app that has offered some type of Skype integration. In a word, it is simply this:


Over the past several years I have become a huge user of Skype multi-user groupchats. Both for internal groupchats within organizations or companies and also for public groupchats where people have joined together to discuss common topics. They are an incredible communication tool - and no other iPhone app has delivered those for Skype.


The strength of Skype's multi-user chat facility is in its persistence. Once you join a groupchat, you will receive all messages to that groupchat until you actually go up to the Chat menu in the Skype client and choose "Leave Chat". Closing the window doesn't get you out of the chat - you must actually leave the chat.

The power here is that "all messages" means even those messages sent in the groupchat while you were offline. When your Skype client reconnects to the Skype P2P cloud, your client downloads all the messages sent to the chat while you were away. Within typically a few seconds you wind up getting a complete history of everything said over the past while.

Think of it as a conversation that never ends.

When you are traveling, you can be typing in the groupchat up until the time you have to board your plane. Land at your destination, pop open Skype, wait a few seconds or so, and... ta da... you have the full conversation of what happened while you were in the air. Or if you are being environmentally-concerned and put your computer to sleep at night (or power it off), when you wake it in the morning, after the sync, you get all the messages sent during the night - which, when you start working with global teams, becomes increasingly important.

Persistent groupchats are powerful organizing and community-building tools.

And we've not had this yet in an app that works with Skype on the iPhone. We've had person-to-person chats in apps like Fring and IM+, but not group chats.

So tomorrow, when everyone is trying out the Skype For iPhone app and testing the voice quality, whining about how it only works on WiFi and not 3G (Duh! Apple has forbid VoIP over 3G.), looking at presence, whining about how video isn't yet supported, looking at address book integration... none of those will be my concern...

I'll be looking at the groupchat support and pushing it's limits as best I can. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. We'll see.

UPDATE: I should have noted, of course, that multi-user groupchats are possible with both Jabber and of course IRC. However, while you might be able to configure certain clients and servers to supply some level of persistence, it is not on by default (that I have seen) nor as simple as it is with Skype.

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