What Is Skype and How Does It Work?

An overview of the Skype VoIP service

Skype is a VoIP service that enables people to make and receive free voice and video calls over the internet using a computer, web browser, or mobile phone. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) enables communication that goes around the standard methods of landlines and cellular plans.

Whether you're working from home or looking for a way to chat with others using video, Skype has broken traditional barriers to communication. Along with chatting with people in your in-app contacts, you can also use it to make international calls. If the person you're talking to also uses a Skype account, talking to them doesn't cost anything extra. For an extra charge, however, you can call and text your non-Skype contacts on their cellphones.

Sign in with Skype screen, macOS

The History of Skype

Skype debuted in 2003 in the early days of VoIP. Its ownership changed hands a couple of times before Microsoft acquired it in 2011. 

Skype is no longer the most popular VoIP because communication has become mobile. Other apps such as WhatsApp and Viber have been more successful on mobile devices than Skype.

Skype Services

Skype provides a variety of services for business, personal, and creative needs, including the following:

  • Meet Now: For creating and sharing meetings. You click a button, which creates the session and gives you a shareable link to send to the people you want to talk to.
  • Skype Manager: Helps you allocate credits (used to make non-Skype calls) and control which features are available for the members of your business or household group.
  • Skype with Alexa: Allows you to use Skype with Alexa, the digital assistant that comes with Amazon Echo devices.
  • Skype with Outlook: Lets you use Skype without leaving your Inbox.

Skype's Premium plan offers additional features and enhancements, with strong cloud-based business solutions. Its complex, sophisticated back-end engines can fuel even large organizations.

Using Skype Meet Now.

Apps

Originally, Skype was a separate app available only for Mac and Windows computers. Today, it has strong apps for iOS, Android, and other common mobile platforms. Skype on the web provides access to the same features available in the standalone versions.

Skype for the web main page

Notable Features of Skype

Skype is rich in features and keeps innovating. Here are some useful things you can do with the software:

  • Skype Translate: Have conversations in different languages and understand each other as the app translates it in real time.
  • End-to-end encryption: Talk and meet with others without worrying about unwanted visitors intercepting your call.
  • Screen sharing: Share your desktop to help with productivity, training, and troubleshooting.
  • Live subtitles: See a real-time on-screen transcript.
Skype's share preview screen with the Share Screen button highlighted
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