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Skype’s Newest Feature: Advertising

Skype

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Skype users could, in the future, be exposed to on-site commercials as they make calls. According to Josh Silverman, the VoIP firm’s CEO, Skype is “seriously considering” third-party advertising on its service. So, apart from the slightly depressing news that people who use Skype to stay in touch with their loved ones could soon find their sweet nothings interrupted by exhortations that Stain-B-Gone is the best product out there for removing nasty messes from fabrics, what does this mean?

It could mean that, despite the large number of Skypers throughout the world, the firm’s current business model is not bringing in sufficient revenue. An attempt last month to challenge the dominance of the major telco firms by offering 60% cheaper phone calls in return for a monthly subscription may not have had the desired effect on the company’s bottom line.

So advertising is the logical next option–although don’t expect a conversation with your business partner in Venezuela to be put on hold while, Spotify-style, you are forced to listen to 15 seconds of the hard sell, amusing though it would be. Skype is probably thinking along the line of banner ads that appear silently on each caller’s Skype pop-up while the service is in use, or even Google-style versions in the video chat window.

General wisdom has it that the future of the Internet is video-based, and Skype CEO Josh Silverman is no different. “The explosion in video is the most important thing on the web,” he told the Telegraph in a video interview, adding that one-third of Skype’s customers used the video-calling service. Indeed, despite the closure in 2008 of its Skypecasts, or video conferencing facilities, the firm announced last week that it is to start testing five-way video calling–although this service will initially only be available to Windows users in Beta form.

With the number of video calls set to rise, this also means increased bandwidth for the firm. And, as we all know, bandwidth costs money. The company is also dependent on large servers to do all the clever processing necessary for its telephony system to work, and all of this costs money. The biggest problem for Skype, however, must be the fact that, although it’s probably the best-known of all the VoIP firms, it offers nothing more than the triumvirate of fixed-line providers, cellphone networks, and ISP already give their customers. Were it to offer something truly revolutionary like Google Voice does, perhaps then we’d see Skype’s effortless rise to actually be what its mission statement says–“the fabric of real-time communication on the web”–rather than just a statement of intent.

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About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S

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