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Is Skype a social network?

Nothing Microsoft has ever built, or bought for that matter, has ever succeeded in the social sphere. But what about Skype? Surely Skype should be counted as a social network. It fulfills many of the same functions that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

You can set a status “mood” message, you can text message, use it as a group chat system, you can share files, photos, your computer screen. Plus, you can talk with people plus video calls, and set up videoconferences with several people.

There’s a huge and active user base, more than 30 million people use it at any one time, and there’s close to 500-million user accounts. Skype has a payment system, and has a billing relationship with tens of millions of people who regularly top up their accounts to make overseas calls.

So why isn’t Skype in the media and blogger conversations about social networks? Why aren’t its numbers of users counted by social media analysts?

It wouldn’t take much for Microsoft to add a few bits and pieces to turn Skype into a fully fledged social network with all the bells and whistles. And with many advantages.

  • It’s much more natural for me to share photos and videos with family and friends via a Skype relationship because I’m talking to them there anyway.

  • Similarly, using Skype to share work with small groups of business colleagues feels natural, and there’s no need to create “circles” and special groups.
  • The structure of Skype makes it easy to keep your activities separate from each other and from others. There’s no need to set and reset privacy controls. Privacy is baked in.
  • Skype isn’t trying to publish every aspect of your online activity all the time.
  • Google doesn’t get to spider your content, and that means there’s no need to fight the SEO spammers who are looking for boosts in their rankings.
  • There’s no advertising.
  • Most people find Skype easy to use while many find Facebook and Twitter confusing.
  • Even though most are “users” and pay nothing Skype isn’t trying to monetize them, the premium users pay for the lot.
  • I’d rather keep my mom engaged on Skype than have her on Facebook and that’s also true for a lot of my family.
  • And it’s a good place to engage in business because Skype is a distraction-free environment, it’s well suited for work.

Skype has the potential to be the dark horse in the social network platform battles. It’s high time for it to be included in this conversation.

Author | Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption. More
  • Rowan Puttergill

    Excellent point Tom. Skype certainly has many of the features of any other social network. I think that all too often, people are too hooked on HTTP as the mother-protocol of all Internet activity. If it ain’t Web 2.0… it ain’t a social network! Then again, you have to consider that deals like the Facebook-Skype relationship, suggest that Facebook can have all of the features available in Skype alongside everything else that it has to offer. Unfortunately, raising awareness of Skype’s potential in this arena probably means that Skype is eventually going to bloat to something unusable and is going to be so inundated in advertising glut that I’m going to have to find a way to sneak out the back door…

  • Let’s not forget that Microsoft bought a well-publicised stake in Facebook (in what looked like a really bum deal at the time, and today looks like an inspired move on Microsoft’s part). The Facebook-Skype deal was almost certainly driven in some part by Microsoft.

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