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Happy Birthday, Skype! Celebrating 8 Years of Disruption

skypelogo-shadow.pngIt was 8 years ago today that the first public beta version of Skype was released... and so began the amazing journey of a product/service that has truly disrupted the telecommunications industry. The Wikipedia page on Skype has a good record of the history, which is interesting to look back upon now.

I started using Skype sometime in early 2005 or so... working in Mitel's Office of the CTO charged with evaluating new technology - and seeking to understand what Skype was all about. I started writing about Skype then... and still continue writing a good bit about Skype as it is certainly one of the more disruptive players in the industry. Skype today is a HUGE part of my daily life and truly is one service that is integral to my daily workflow and life online.

Skype's blog post today, of course, focuses on their current fixation on video calls... even including the strange text (my emphasis added):

What started off as a little idea to connect the world over video calls has turned into something so much more, and we believe this is making a huge difference in making the world feel smaller and a lot more connected.

I don't actually know the ideas of the original founders of Skype, but I do know that in the actual early days of Skype it was all about audio versus video. Perhaps they had the grand dream then of video and had to focus on the reality of audio... or perhaps this is just the current Skype marketing trying to focus on their current messaging around video.

From my perspective, the 8 years of Skype thus far have:

  • completely destroyed the expensive costs of international telephony;
  • provided people a real viable option to use video telephony;
  • introduced people to the idea that you could have audio calls that sounded FAR better than the PSTN via wideband audio codecs;
  • gave people a true multi-modal "unified communications" experience with the ability to easily migrate between chat, audio, video, file sharing and screen sharing;
  • provided the industry with a solid example of secure communications using SRTP (while the carriers were whining about how they couldn't use SRTP because it would be too demanding on their infrastructure);
  • provided an incredible example of the power of persistent group chats;
  • provided an example of what a simple and easy user experience could be in a world of cluttered interfaces; (although some may argue that ended with Skype 5.x)
  • gave we who are fascinated by networks and amazing example of a peer-to-peer communications system; and
  • provided an example of a product that can "just work" from behind pretty much any network configuration including layers of NAT, firewalls, etc., etc.

... and so much more. It's been a fascinating service and company to watch, write about and use their products.

Oh, it hasn't all be great, of course... the business side of Skype has been all over the place. The partner/developer programs are on their 7th or 8th iteration. Various other programs have come and gone (SkypeCasts? Extras?). Skype has pursued it's incredibly fractured product management strategy across the multiple different operating systems.

But all in all it has certainly been fun to have Skype around ... and it sure has disrupted the industry!

What lies ahead now that Skype is slated to become part of Microsoft? Much remains to be seen... but odds that when their 9th birthday rolls around they won't be quite the same disruptive troublemakers that they are today. We'll see.

Meanwhile... Happy Birthday, Skype!

And two other friends have shared their thoughts today:

And here is Skype's birthday video... slickly produced with a message that does indeed celebrate the communications power that Skype has brought to our world:

I'm looking forward to seeing where the next 8 years of Skype takes us...

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