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Another 'new' Skype isn't going to save the platform

Skype
Skype (Image credit: Windows Central)

Earlier today Microsoft outlined some of its plans for the future of Skype. The blog post says that Skype is "here to stay" and that Microsoft plans to have an "improved, faster, reliable, and super modern-looking Skype." I'll forgive you if you check the date on our news post. It's certainly the type of thing we've heard from Microsoft before.

I have nothing against the specific features or changes on the way to Skype. TwinCam, which allows you to add a smartphone to a call to provide a second camera angle, actually sounds pretty cool. Customizable notification sounds, new themes, and new background options are also welcome additions. But I can't help but feel like we've heard this song and dance before.

Microsoft has built, torn down, and rebuilt Skype more times than I care to count. Microsoft has clearly moved on from Skype to focus on Microsoft Teams, which is the default communication app on Windows 11. Another new Skype isn't going to save the platform. Honestly, I don't think anything will.

New isn't always better

Skype on Windows 10

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Sorry, Barney Stinson, new isn't always better. Microsoft has taken several steps forward and backward when it comes to the quality of Skype. Those steps occurred seemingly at random as well, rather than trending in the right direction. It feels as if some people at Microsoft know there's something wrong with Skype but don't know how to fix it. In an attempt to improve the service, Microsoft remakes the app once every year or so.

Our senior editor Zac Bowden recapped Microsoft's efforts in a more extensive piece on how Microsoft mishandled Skype:

What doesn't help is that the desktop application is terrible. Last year, Microsoft updated Skype from a UWP app to an Electron app, which killed all Windows 10 integrations and made it a total dog to run thanks to Electron's terrible performance ...This change came after several rebuilds of Skype on Windows 10 in the last five years. It feels like there's no one leading the Skype team because the amount of client rebuilds Windows 10 has received is outrageous. Skype was originally split into two apps, then converged into one UWP app, which was later rebuilt as a React Native app, before being replaced with a terrible Win32 electron app.

It's too late for Skype

Skype on iOS

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Skype already lost the battle for everyday people. In a world in which people were forced to communicate through the web, Zoom, WhatsApp, and other messaging apps exploded. Where people used to say they'd Skype someone, they now say they'll Zoom them.

Some people still use Skype, of course. I'm sure there are actually millions of people that have Skype accounts. I bet some people even use Skype voluntarily. But the Skype brand has dwindled consistently over the years.

The general public has already moved on from Skype, and to be honest it feels like Microsoft has as well.

People left Skype for a reason

Zoom App Windows 11 Store

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

People didn't just switch from Skype to Zoom and WhatsApp to go with a trend. Skype has a long history of inconsistency. When Microsoft was in the running to purchase Discord, our senior editor Jez Corden discussed some of the issues with Skype:

I'm not quite sure why, but it's absurd to me that, in 2021, Skype and Xbox Live messaging services lag behind the competition in speed. It just doesn't feel good to send texts over Skype-based services, watching the app struggle to open even on the world's most powerful PCs and phones, while Telegram and WhatsApp, and crucially, Discord, all open at a mere instant. If after years of failed attempts to rebrand and rebuild Skype, Microsoft is unable to improve even the most basic aspects of the service, there must be something fundamentally wrong with it. What else could it be? It's time to cut loose and move on.

Once people leave a platform for communication, the platform loses value. Microsoft could fix every single issue with Skype, but it wouldn't matter much if people have already left.

A dead Skype isn't a total loss

Microsoft Teams Note20 On Keyboard

Source: Dan Thorp-Lancaster / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Dan Thorp-Lancaster / Windows Central)

Microsoft doesn't need Skype to succeed as a consumer service. That's not why the company drove it into the ground, but it's downfall isn't that big of a loss. Skype for Business has transitioned to Microsoft Teams. The tech that Microsoft wanted from Skype is being used in other services like Teams and Xbox Live messaging. If Skype stopped working as a platform tomorrow, Microsoft would still benefit from its acquisition of the platform.

Like Mixer tech living on in the Xbox ecosystem, Skype tech remains throughout Microsoft's software, including some of the best Windows 10 apps. Even in cases where Microsoft switched to a different protocol or underlying tech, it still gained insight from its development Skype.

I'm not sure Microsoft cares whether Skype is a premier platform for communication again. If it does, I don't think the upcoming updates to Skype will do much to convince people.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

23 Comments
  • I believe in what you said right at the end :)
  • I thought Skype was being stopped and replaced by teams, in fact I'm sure a message even popped up on Skype saying as much so I'm surprised they still update it at all, maybe that was just Skype for business? Still,
    what is its purpose of skype now Teams exists?
  • My guess? Petty office politics. Skype has no relevance in this modern era of hybrid work. That's sad state of affairs, considering Skype once a upon aeons ago was the defacto platform for video chatting. But that was pre-smartphones. Microsoft has seriously bungled every decision that comes to mobile and that's no easy feat - considering pre-android and ios they had a major presence with Windows Mobile 6.x and lower.
  • "maybe that was just Skype for business? "
    Correct. Skype for Business (which is not even real Skype) is being replaced by Teams. Microsoft never said such thing about regular Skype, however.
  • True, but personnaly I think they should be migrating to a single solution. Combine teams and Skype. I think all the "business" features are also useful privately.
  • I had to check the date on the article... Lol. Inconsistent is putting it mildly... the development and trajectory of Skype is best described as Jenga played with blutack in order to get away with some very dodgy moves.
  • I think MS could resurrect Skype if they dropped the Teams personal app and affirmed their focus on Skype and commitment to seeing it become the primary communication system. They should then put their money where their mouth is by embedding it into Windows and ensuring cross-communication with Teams. Then they could pitch it as the best way to stay in touch with your family when you're at work and when you're not. To ensure they do it well and get the message out, dogfood it with their own people, and set a corporate initiative that all employees should use Skype for personal communications, and to give feedback on all positive and negative experiences. However, I've seen no evidence that they're prepared to make a decision to do that. Instead, they hedge their bets, putting chips on both Skype and on Teams personal, no one internally even knows they still support Skype, and so they unwittingly pit the two products against each other, and ensure both fail. MS is its own worst enemy in these situations, because they seem to have fear of commitment, which they don't seem to realize is obvious to their customers. When a company doesn't demand its people live and work with its own products, it's like the parents telling their kids not to drink, while demanding "Bring me another beer": the insincerity is palpable and it's nearly guaranteed to fail.
  • Yeah, you nailed it.
    There is no reason why Skype should have failed with all the advantages and market mind-share it had years ago. Even if it was successful pre-smartphones, as another commented said, that was no reason for them not to pivot hard and fast and retain the market. Facebook also started in the pre-smartphone era so that can't be an excuse. It feels like someone wanted Skype to fail for political or personal reasons, because the decisions they made just don't make sense.
  • Hot takes get clicks, that's what I get out of this article.
  • Is it that hot of a take to say Skype isn't doing well?
  • What's the point? Trying to reinvigorate Skype is just committing resources to compete with yourself. Teams is already the default for W11--who at MS benefits by getting users to install Skype instead? Microsoft has done multiple restructurings in the past few years, it seems. I thought the goal there was to minimize the redundancies and corporate clunkiness. In such moves, I would expect Skype and its staff to be realigned with the Teams crew. Why hasn't that happened? Stop fighting yourself and move on. Skype is dead. More importantly, they have a functional replacement that many probably view more favorably (including the decision makers behind W11).
  • Skype is already dead. As in, no one is using it. Why is MS even wasting time/money/effort on it? They should officially kill Skype and focus on Teams.
  • Well, to play devil's advocate, millions actually use Skype daily. Why "kill" something that millions rely on and use regularly? I understand people moving on from Skype, or using something else, but I can't fathom "killing it" when it has millions of DAUs.
  • Dan, I don't care which MS supports: Skype or Teams personal. But they should pick one and focus on it. That implies "killing" the one they're not going to support, but it could be done in a friendly way, encouraging people to move to the other and making a seamless migration path. Unfortunately, by exhibiting a split personality and doing both, they inadvertently kill both.
  • Windows phones had “millions of users” also. The question is, is that 2 million? Or 750 million?
  • For most of the people Skype is irrelevant for the same reason that an earlier article is about them not knowing about the arrival of Windows 11. They have what they have and that is perfectly fine for them. Not to mention that most of their friends are on it. Today, consumer software works as the hype train. As long as Skype is under the umbrella of MS, I'm a regular user. I also use to send photos as it would not compress them and ruin their EXIF information like Messenger would. It comes down to niche features like so when choosing a product.
  • "Skype is about to get 30 percent faster on desktop" and how much slower and heavier compared to the UWP one?
  • At this point, they should ditch Skype and put the focus on teams for consumers.
    I haven't opened the Skype app on my phone or PC in a year or so and I really see a reason why to keep it around. Teams works.
  • Teams Personal is fine. It's about like Skype. I used Teams personal for a little while to try it out and came back to Skype for my family, but I don't care. They're both good and work fine. My far larger concern is that MS can't win if they don't pick one and get behind it. Whichever one the do, ideally, it would also be able to cross-communicate with Teams Chat. Strategy 101: leverage your strengths to gain ground and win. By competing with itself, MS is instead taking a claymore to one of its strengths and cutting the legs off it.
  • Microsoft should stop the internal competition. They have introduced Teams Personal and should focus on it while making Skype obsolete and retire it by recreating all Skype functionality in Teams. I want the international phone call service in Teams with the 60 min free per month in my Microsoft 365 subscription.
  • I'd support this. As long as they pick one and put all the resources they're willing to put into consumer communications into that one to give it the best possible chance to succeed and to give me confidence that if I start/continue using one, it will be supported for years to come. That also means I'd support if they did this for Skype instead of Teams Personal, but either way. Just pick one, MS.
  • So basically you're saying "Pick a *Team* and play."?
  • They should restore the ability to make Skype the default calling app in Windows. In the Windows People app there’s a link to “Call with Skype” but it doesn’t work. I believe that at one time we could click a phone number in Outlook (in Office) and call people via Skype. Now there’s no option to call from Outlook at all. As an M365 subscriber I get free Skype minutes. I also have Skype minutes in my account that I paid for but never completely used. But Skype no longer syncs with my Outlook address book, so if I want to make a call in the Skype app I have to copy and paste the phone number. In Outlook on the web, clicking the meet now button opens Skype. But if you click Invite, and then click Skype Contacts, no contacts at all appear or are found by searching. Give Skype its functionality back and maybe people will have a reason to use it.