The first time I heard the term "Skype," I wondered what it could mean. Now the word has entered the language as a proxy for "VoIP service allowing voice, video calling and instant messages," much the same way that "Google" means "to search the Internet." The application and service was launched in 2003 and was quickly snapped up by eBay, but was subsequently sold and bought by Microsoft in 2011. Skype has proven to be very successful and now an impressive 40% of global international calls are handled by the infrastructure. The application is available for a wide number of devices including, of course, Android. Microsoft have replaced Microsoft Instant Messenger with Skype across most of the world (apart from China), bought and included Qik, and the service is a key part of the Windows family. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, whereas calls to non-Skype calls are chargeable.
And now Microsoft have announced Skype for Web, which is a web browser based version of the service. It's available for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox for Windows, or Safari 6.0 or later for Mac. It does require the user to download a plugin (but Microsoft are working on removing this requirement). The critical advantage of using Skype on a web browser is that it doesn't require the user to install the application and providing you're using a relatively recent browser (and can install the plugin, of course) you're good to go. This should work great if you're at an Internet cafe, hotel computer or other public location and you want to catch up with loved ones or business contact, but the machine doesn't have the app installed.
Skype for Web is still in the beta and there are a few issues. One is that video calls take much longer to connect, another is that there's high battery use for Macs and the third is that it's only currently available to a small number of subscribers at the moment. Microsoft will be working on fixing the issues with the service plus removing the plugin requirement, and of course rolling it out to a more subscribers over the world in the coming months. If you use Skype and want to check if you have the beta enabled on your account, just sign in on a website.
Do you use Skype? Or have you switched to Google Hangouts? Are you looking forward to accessing Skype via a web browser in the coming months? Let us know in the comments below.