Does good’old Skype still have a place along side the new craze of Zoom and House Party in the wake of COVID-19

If COVID-19 had happened at the beginning of last decade rather than this one, all we’d be seeing in the digital social video world would be people using Skype instead of seeing everyone from gym instructors, church choirs and even government’s COBRA having calling over Zoom – even with all the recent concerns over security and privacy which have seen a number of business and other governments banning it!

According to Microsoft, Skype (this is consumer skype, not Teams or Skype for Business) is seeing circa 40million daily active users (a huge dip in the numbers they saw even 5 years ago), however, most of the newer generation seem very much in the new Party Chat or Zoom world, leaving the Skype Marketing team having to re-promote itself in light of the sudden huge wave of competition by its new “casual” friendemies on the block.

Zoom certainly seems to be on the lips of most people as the go-to service for hosting everything from business meetings to virtual pub quizzes and even weddings, there has also been huge concerns and negative press about Zoom’s privacy and security handling of user data.

It seems that team over at Skype is finally (let’s face it no one has really talked much about Skype for a while) s looking to regain mindshare by positioning itself as the safer Zoom alternative – and why not? Skype is a mature solid product that has stood the test time.

Skype is adding some new features though

Recently, Skype has been beta testing a new feature borrowed from Skype for Busienss and Microsoft Teams called “Meet Now” that gives it the same hassle-free experience being touted by Zoom users.

Skype Meet Now Screen Shot

 

Meet Now appears as a new button in the new Skype Insider build (this is the beta release and not the general version mind). Clicking this will open a window where you can see a call link that you can share with others over what ever messaging platform your choose.

The nice thing here is that anyone can join and – even users without a Skype account will be able to join and participate in the group call, but “Meet Now” also creates a regular group chat where you can send messages to other participants.

Right now, Meet Now has only been rolled out to Insiders in Beta releases and have not really advertised or promoted their capability to provide an alternative solution to Zoom which, given the security and privacy concerns could, if promoted well, re-light the Skype fire. 

The biggest hurdle to Skype had always been the need to have a Microsoft account for use which for occasional guest users was a huge pain in the bottom!  Since they have now lowering the barrier to entry by removing this requirement with Meet Now, Skype is already a more secure platform than Zoom and is offering many new features for free.

Ok – so what is still great in Skype?

  • First there’s the new Meet Now feature
  • There’s now the ability to utilise picture-in-picture when navigating away from the core Skype app with a new split-view mode
  • You can record meetings and have those recordings stored for up to 30 days.
  • You can add live translation sub-titles 
  • Its very reliable, great quality video and very secure!

What does it lack to beat the younger competition

There’s still a lot Skype lacks if you were to compare to the competition. In my view this includes:-

  • Awareness and Coolness – Skype needs to be cool again – its reputation is a bit “fossil” like now being used by the older generation and not millennials!
  • More video windows – we know Zoom can do 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, 5×5 etc can Skype, well cant do anywhere near that!
  • Custom Backgrounds – another thing that many of the other competition do – it woudl be nice to see “fun” things coming into Skype – its not a business product after all so be great if Skype made this more fun and social
  • Quizes and Games – these would be nice a nice touch too – these are things apps like HouseParty are doing really well during our COVID-19 lock-downs
  • Same look and feel across all platforms – if i look at Skype and Skype Beta on iOS, Android and Windows, the look and  feel of the app does feel very different.

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