Why the excitement over Skype?

By at 23 August, 2006, 11:36 am

voip (voice over Internet protocol) has been in the news quite a bit the last year.  Offerings from Vonage, EarthLink, Packet 8, SunRocket, Charter Communications and traditional telecom carriers are expanding the availability of the service.  However, the offerings from these companies generally provide for connection to traditional telephones with calls being placed using VoIPto another phone.  This is where a product such as Skype enters the picture: designed as a service to call between computers it also has the added functionality of being able to call phone numbers and to provide concurrent video at the same time you are making the computer to computer call.

 
While there are challengers to Skype which provide additional benefits through the use of nonproprietary protocols giving the ability to communicate with users of different products (except Skype), Skype has the largest user base and has the benefit of being extremely simple to set up and use.  While it is true that Skype uses a proprietary protocol to connect other computers and to make calls, installation and use of the software can't be simpler. Unlike the more traditional VoIP service providers, to use Skype all you need is their free software, a microphone and speaker (a headset works very well) and a broadband Internet connection.  Calls from your computer to regular phone numbers (landline and cell) in the United States and Canada are free through December 31, 2006, after which a fee will be chrged which is not yet been set.  However, the prior rate charged was about two cents a minute.

 

You can also buy what's called a SkypeIn number which gives you a phone number that you can take wherever you go.  As long as you have a broadban Internet connection, your friends can reach you whereever you are located.  An example of this would be having a Madison, Wisconsin phone number that you can be reached at while traveling overseas as long as you have a broadband Internet connection.  Your friends would only pay whatever their phone company charged to make a phone call to Madison, Wisconsin.  You can add voicemail, call forwarding and SMS messaging for additional fees.  Skype also includes the ability to send video during computer to computer calls using a web cam; the program automatically finds and uses any installed web cam on your computer system.

 
Skype can be installed on multiple computer systems and signing up for an account is free and easy; this is one of the primary differences between Skype and traditional VoIP services such as Vonage. You can also use Skype without any special equipment or connections since its software-based and runs on your computer system: all you need is a broadband Internet connection.  You can also use it for conference calls for up to four people at no charge and is a great way to save money when compared to the cost of traditional telephone conference services.

 
A major difference between Skype and other Voip service providers is that Skype is not a replacement for existing telephone service: it does not offer 911 services and does not intend to offer this service.  While services such as bondage require steps to use 911 services, it can be configured.  There are also competitors to Skype using open-communications protocols but they do not have the user base of Skype and you may encounter problems using them from behind firewalls.  One such product is the Gizmo Project which does offer additional capabilities that Skype does not provide and also offers voicemail at no cost.  It has the added benefit of being able to communicate with other VoIP products built on top of the same open communications protocol.  The drawback to these products is that they may require a higher level of computer knowledge to deal with issues presented by firewalls or computer networks.

 

Skype was purchased by eBay this past year and no one is sure what this will ultimately mean to the Skype service.  In the interim, Skype continues to release updates to its product and makes further gains on increasing its customer base.  When coupled with its dropdead simplicity and the fact that it just works, there's no reason you should not have a free Skype account.

Categories : Gadget, Gizmos and Widgets | Hmmm! | Internet | Software

Comments
Cheap Voip Service July 14, 2009

Great article. The husband and I dumped landlines for voip about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Our friends are cell phone only but we only have prepaid so this works out. Thanks!

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