What Is Skype and How Does It Work?

An overview of the Skype VoIP service

Skype is a VoIP service which enables people to make and receive free voice and video calls over the internet using a computer, web browser, or mobile phone. VoIP has supplied ways to communicate that go around the standard methods of landlines and cellular plans.

Whether you're working from home or just looking for a way to chat more personally 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 is also using a Skype account, talking to them doesn't cost anything extra. For an extra charge, however, you can also call and text your contacts on their cell phones.

To help you stay in communication with others, we've created this handy guide with everything you need to know to get started using 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 this guide, open the links in the navigation pane. You'll see it's separated into six sections: Getting Started, Tips for Using Skype, Working with Contacts, Using Different Platforms, and Troubleshooting & Updating. Inside each section are several articles with hints and tips from Lifewire pros designed to get you up to speed as quickly as possible.

Sign in with Skype screen, macOS

The History of Skype

Skype started in 2003 during the early days of Voice over IP. its ownership has changed hands a couple of times before software giant Microsoft finally acquired it in 2011. 

Skype is no longer the most popular VoIP since communication has become more mobile and that 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 that try to meet business, personal, and creative needs, including the following.

  • Meet Now: This service is for quickly creating and sharing meetings. You click a single 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're running a business or managing Skype usage for your household, Skype Manager will help 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 also use Skype with Alexa, the digital assistant that comes with Amazon Echo devices.

The platform also has a Premium plan that comes with additional features and enhancements. Skype has strong business solutions that are now mostly cloud-based, with complex and sophisticated back-end engines able to fuel even big 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 all other common mobile platforms. You can also use Skype on the web and still use all of 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 of the most useful things you can do with the software:

  • Skype Translate: lets people talk in different languages while still understanding each other thanks to the app translating each side of the conversation in real-time.
  • End-to-end encryption: lets you talk end meet in peace without worrying about unwanted visitors intercepting your call.
  • Screen sharing: helps with productivity, training, and troubleshooting by letting call participants show exactly what's on their desktops.
  • Live subtitles: handy for people who are hard of hearing or just need to keep the noise down in their environment. Instead of hearing what other people are saying, the live subtitles option displays a transcript on the screen.