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
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 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
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 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.