Skype is the most popular free voice-over IP and instant messaging service globally. It allows users to text, video and voice call over the internet. Users can also call landlines and mobiles at competitive rates using Skype credit, premium accounts and subscriptions. Skype was publically released in 2003 and now accounts for roughly a third of all international calling minutes. Skype uses P2P technology to connect users on a multitude of platforms including desktop, mobile and tablet. The call quality (depending on your internet signal) and additional features like conversation history, conference calling and secure file transfer are excellent. There have been some criticisms over the programs bandwidth usage and security vulnerabilities.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed Skype, you will need to create a user profile and unique Skype name. You can then search for other users in the Skype directory or call them directly using their Skype name. Voice chat comes with conference calling, secure file transfer and a highly secure end to end encryption. Video chat is available on higher bandwidth connections and makes keeping up with distant family/friends much more interactive. Video conferencing and the Screenshare features make Skype popular with the corporate market. Skype’s text chat client features group chat, chat history, message editing and emoticons. Skype also enables calls to landlines and mobiles using a premium paid service.
Easy to Use
Skype’s UI is very intuitive and easy to use. All the classic messaging service features like profiles, online status, contacts and recent history are displayed in the left navigation. Here you will also find the Skype directory, group options, a search box and premium calling buttons. The right side (main window) opens the content you select. For individual contacts you will see a text message box, chat history and calling options.
On fast internet connections Skype call quality is excellent for both voice and video calls. The hybrid peer-to-peer client server system means the sound quality is better than most VoIP services. That being said, if you do have a slower internet connection, voice calls may be interrupted or delayed. Video calls will be intermittent and pixelated. Text chat will only be affected by very poor connections. The call quality button will give you detailed information on the expected call quality for each of your contacts (as the quality depends on both parties internet connection).