Using Skype in Your Browser

Skype for Web - Running Skype Without Downloading and Installing It

Skype for Web
Skype for Web.

Downloading and installing Skype is a problem in certain contexts. For instance, you may be on a computer that is not yours and that does not have the app installed at a time when you badly need it. Or you may be in a situation where you just cannot get things to work with the installation. Skype now has a version of its pioneering instant messaging and VoIP tool for the browser called Skype for Web.

It works in your browser without you have to install anything but a plugin for voice and video calls. 

Using Skype For Web 

It is quite straightforward to use Skype on your browser. Just type in the address bar and go. The pale blue and white Skype interface you already will load like a web page. You will, of course, have to log in for the first time, with your usual name and password. 

Note that this works only with the following browsers: Internet Explorer version 9 or later for Windows machines, Safari for Mac OS, and universally Chrome and Firefox. Concerning the platforms, only Windows and Mac OS are supported. It also works on pure Microsoft products like Outlook, Slack and Office 365. Linux and other operating systems, including Android and iOS, are not supported (yet). This means that you cannot have it work on the browser of your Android device. That would have been so helpful, as the Skype app takes a considerable amount of phone storage space.

Same goes for the iPhone and the iPad. 

The Skype Web Plugin

As your browser stands now, you can use Skype for instant messaging and share multimedia files, but not as a VoIP tool. To make voice and video calls, you need to install a WebRTC plugin of 13.6 MB. Once you try initiating a call, you will be prompted about the need to install the plugin and will be given a link to download and install it.

The screens that follow are straightforward, unrolling a process where you click two or three times before everything is done.

Installation should not take more than a minute or so, and if it does take more, it is an indication that there is a problem somewhere. In the case all goes well, you should see "Setup is complete."

There is a Chrome extension called Skype Calling, which is not the plugin we are concerned with here. This one does help you with call management and adds some functionality to your browser with respect to making calls using Skype, such as 'hypertexting' numbers and contacts that appear in your browser and converting them into click-to-call links. But it does not do the calling itself. 

The Skype Web Plugin actually installs as a standalone program and is not exactly the type of plugin you would expect to cling to the browser. In fact, once you install it on a browser, you can use on another browser as well, without needing to install it for that other browser. You can uninstall the plugin from your computer through the common procedure, just like any other applications software. In Windows, for example, it would be an uninstall from the Control Panel. Finally, it is not technically really an extension.


Skype For Web Features 

Skype is known for its rich list of features, but the browser version has a limited set of features. More will most probably come as the new tool develops into something more robust and eventually more popular. 

As mentioned already, logging in into a simple (but supported) browser allows you to manage your contacts and use the instant messaging functions. You can chat and create and manage group chats. You can also share resources like pictures and other multimedia documents. Installing the plugin gives you voice and video calls, and video conferencing with up to 10 participants.

The voice calls can be conference calls with up 25 participants. Group text chatting can have as many as 300 participants. 

You can also make calls to other numbers outside the Skype numbers, calls that are paid. There is a dial pad for dialing the number, with the possibility to choose the destination country from a list. There is also a link to replenish your credit, that redirects you to the 'buy credit' page. 

The call quality with the web version is quite good, comparable if not equal to the quality of the standalone app. There are a number of factors affecting call quality, so differences in quality between the two versions may not necessarily be just the result of one being browser based. In fact, the call quality should theoretically be the same since the work is more on the server side, and the codecs used on the servers are the same throughout the network. 

The Interface

While the look is roughly the same, with the same theme, a left-side panel for controls and a right-side bigger plane for actual chats or calls. However, the details and sophistication are less in the web version. The geeky settings and audio configurations are not present there. 

Should I Try It?

Is the web version worth trying? Yes of course, because it is free and simple. Only because it is free and simple. On any computer, open the browser, type, log in, and you are inside your Skype account, able to communicate. This becomes very handy when you are using a public computer or one that does not have Skype installed.

It is also helpful in places where the connection is very slow and limited, too slow for a proper Skype installation. 

Now, there is a huge limitation - the need of the plugin. If you read the title of our article once more, you will remember that you came here because you were interested in Skype without download and installation. What you actually have without download and installation is only a simple instant messenger. The free voice and video calling Skype you know aren't there yet unless you and install the plugin. Well, if you finally do have to download and install, then better do it for the whole thing, the real software with all the bells and whistles. 

Running Skype in your browser would have been very interesting, even with a plugin, for mobile devices. Skype installation takes up much space and resources on the device and many people do not install it for this particular reason. Running it in a browser would solve the problem. But unfortunately, it is not (yet?) available for mobile devices. 

As for my computer, I tend to keep to the full standalone version of Skype, which is constantly logged in and running without a problem. Such is the case for millions of people around the world. Why would I want the plugin?

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