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 supplies ways to communicate that go around the standard methods of landlines and cellular plans.

Sign in with Skype screen, macOS

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 contacts on their cellphones.

The Ultimate Guide to Skype

To help you stay in communication with others, we created a handy guide with everything you need to know to get started with Skype. From the basics of installation to more complicated topics like blurring the background so no one can see your messy abode, The Ultimate Guide to Skype will help you use the program like a pro.

To use The Ultimate Guide to Skype, open the links in the navigation pane on the left side of this page. It's separated into six sections: Skype Basics, Getting Started, Tips for Using Skype, Working with Contacts, Skype on Different Platforms, and Troubleshooting & Updating. Each section has articles with hints and tips from Lifewire pros designed to get you up to speed as quickly as possible.

The History of Skype

Skype started in 2003 during the early days of Voice over IP. 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 and services have been more successful on mobile devices than Skype, like WhatsApp and Viber.

Skype Services

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

  • Meet Now: This service is for quickly 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: If you run a business or manage Skype usage for your household, Skype Manager helps you allocate credits (used to make non-Skype calls) and control which features are available for the members of your group.
  • Skype with Alexa: You can use Skype with Alexa, the digital assistant that comes with Amazon Echo devices.

The platform has a Premium plan that comes with additional features and enhancements. Skype has strong business solutions that are cloud-based, with complex and sophisticated back-end engines that fuel even large organizations.

The Skype App

Originally, Skype was a separate app that was only available for Mac and PC. Today, it has strong apps for iOS, Android, and other common mobile platforms. You can also use Skype on the web and access the same features that are available in the standalone versions.

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: You and another person can talk in different languages and understand each other because the app translates each side of the conversation in real-time.
  • End-to-end encryption: You can talk and meet with others without worrying about unwanted visitors intercepting your call.
  • Screen sharing: Helps with productivity, training, and troubleshooting by letting call participants show what's on their desktops.
  • Live subtitles: Handy for people who have a hearing impairment or need to keep the noise down in their environment. Instead of hearing what other people say, the live subtitles option displays a transcript on the screen.