Nowadays the only context we hear about Skype is the legal fight (care to bet how long it will take for the previous Net Celebs to become the Hated Greedy Ones who try to sc**w all of us?) – I would much rather read about new features, improvements.
After all, Skype is the single most popular voice and video calling application. But let’s not forget it’s also an IM system – in fact as this Infoworld article points out, it has become the reigning IM system.
And therein lies the rub: it is less and less suitable for text chat.
Remember the early Skype 4 Beta? The forced full-screen may have been great for video, but made it a nightmare trying to maintain simultaneous chat sessions with 5-6 or more people. It clearly showed where Skype’s focus is: follow the money, that is voice and video, and ignore IM-ers. Finally they listened to the user revolt, and gave our resizable screens back, but there are still issues with multiple chat windows, notifications..etc – purely for IM the “old” Skype 3.8 was better.
If you want to sit in a comfy chair and video-chat with Grandma, the kids while on a business trip, or even conduct business with one person at a time, video calls are great. If you are a web-worker, work with distributed teams (don’t we all?), and are the multi-tasker type (aren’t we all?), nothing beats text – and let’s not forget IM sessions also generate a searchable archive. Or do they?
You can search – but will you find? If you use Skype from more then one computer, fragments of your IM history are spread around between those machines. In the age of Cloud Computing, Skype still stores history locally on your computer – years ago we had the same problem with contacts, and they fixed it, why not do the same with log files?
The way we use computers has changed, and Skype is left in the dust. I often write about situational computing, and it appears I am not alone – a recent TechRepublic study confirms that 74% of tech professionals use 3 computers or more during their work-week. If you’re like them you would need history stored on the Web. Ironically, while the ongoing legal battle is all about billions of dollars, one potential workaround to bypass the Skype founders appears to be web-ifying Skype, which could bring resolution to the IM problem, too.