Occasionally, things come along which change the way you do things. This time it’s Skype.
I’ve followed Skype from its early days when two Swedish guys developed it and stuck it on the net. I tried it then, in its early days, but the interface wasn’t very good - you could only do voice calls and as with many of the VoIP* services at that time, invariably the calls were very bad quality with the talker sounding like he/she had a very bad stutter.
(*Voice Over Internet Protocol – voice calls routed over the internet)
I then watched incredulously as the Skype founders sold ‘the company’ to eBay for $2.6 billion dollars, the plan being that eBay could make a sale on their auction site and then link the seller and the buyer at the press of a button. Needless to say, what seemed like a good idea turned out to be a non-starter and virtually nobody used it for that purpose.
eBay then wanted to float off Skype (it now carries 8% of all international telephone calls) but it transpired that eBay had only bought the concept – the Swedish founders had kept ownership of the underlying technology! Who did that deal?
A few months ago, eBay, having taken a $1.7 billion write-down, sold a major stake in Skype to some private equity house and I’m sure they’re hoping (especially the person who let the technology slip through their hands) that it has a rosier and more profitable future.
All that commercial stuff aside, I installed Skype when my son, Tim, was off to the Middle East to support the war effort in Afghanistan. He convinced me that Skype would be the best way to communicate.
I downloaded the application and was very surprised with the user interface. It’s so easy that even J can use it. No – it’s so easy that even my brother can use it! Press a button and you have a video call going – I can see my son lying in his air-conditioned tent in Qatar. End that call and press another button and hey-presto, I can see and speak to my brother in Glasgow (not a pretty sight with his front teeth out). Press another button and all three of us can have a three-way chat about the football. And all for free. It’s great.
I do have a couple of problems with Skype though. When I test the service with J to establish if my camera and mike are working (me in the lounge and J on the terrace) she will insist on flashing her boobs. I think I’ll send in a report to Skype (press another button – ‘Report Abuse’) and get her ex-communicated I suppose you’d call it!
And given that most people now use the video service, I continually get strange women asking me to ‘be their friend’ and ‘open a video call with them’. Of course, these ladies will want to charge for the privilege of looking at them doing whatever they’ll be doing. Maybe I could ask J to pay for one of these calls for my Xmas?????
Anyway, if I haven’t put you off with the ‘strange women’ problem, you can download Skype from the URL below. And it’s best to have a recent version of Windows which supports Skype video calling. Good luck.