What’s the hype about Skype?

Posted on March 1, 2011



You take a computer, add voice and video and what do you get? Skype!

For those of you unfamiliar with Skype, it’s a software application that allows you to make calls over the internet. You can call any other Skype user via the Internet for free. Besides being free, you can enable the video portion, so you can actually see the other person. Ah, therein lies the challenge.

I usually don’t fall prey to wanting the next shiny bright technical object. Well, except for wanting the latest iPhone….

I know there are lots of technology tools out there to make online communications better, but I’ve been sticking with the basics. This week, 3 people asked me if I was on Skype so I figured it was time to check it out.

Skype’s pros and cons:

1. It’s free.

Pro: Free is always good.

Con: You are constantly asked to upgrade to Skype Premium. This gets very annoying very quickly.

2. It’s visual.

Pro: This is almost as good as a face-to-face meeting. Communication is much more effective if you can see the other person’s facial expressions.

Con: I must admit, many times I’ve done phone calls in my sweats or exercise clothes. I didn’t quite plan my time well enough to change before taking a call. Appearing on video with my hair stuck in a ponytail on top of my head, no makeup and sweaty from exercise is not a pretty picture. That’s why I work out in the privacy of my own home. I must now allow extra time to get dressed.

3. Because you’re visible, it’s harder to multi-task.

Pro: It’s much more polite to focus on your call, than to do the countless other things you usually do when you’re on the phone.

Con:  Admit it, we all are doing about 5 other things when we’re on the phone: checking email, tweeting, eating lunch, filing papers etc. This wouldn’t look too good if someone saw you doing that while you were talking to them.

4. It’s easy to download and use.

Pro: Easy is good. Even those not very technical can do this.

Con: I can’t think of any cons at the moment.

5. What you see is what you get.

Pros: It’s more or less real time.

Cons: There can be a bit of a delay between the sound and the visual, so you may see someone talking but hear no sound. It’s also common for the connection to get dropped. Because of these issues, I wouldn’t recommend Skype for intense conversations or negotiations.

I’ve just scratched the surface of what you can do with Skype. With an upgrade to the paid Premium service, you can also:

*make calls to landlines
*use your mobile phone for calls
*do group videoconferencing.

I haven’t looked at these features yet. I’ll wait until I have a need for these.

So, what has been your experience with Skype?

Photo courtesy of Billy_R’s Photostream under Creative Commons Licensing.