If you’ve been tooling around on the net for very long then you’ve probably heard of Skype, but in case you haven’t it’s a Voice Over IP (VOIP) offering that has become relatively popular in part because of its simplicity. Using your PC (equipped with a microphone and speakers of some sort) and the free Skype software you can call any other Skype user for free using an interface not all that different from your typical Instant Messenger and with decent voice quality. For a low fee you could also make phone calls to actual phone numbers anywhere in the world via their SkypeOut service making for a cheap way to do long distance. The growing popularity of Skype is part of why so many other companies have jumped on the VOIP bandwagon so Skype is fighting back by making all SkypeOut calls made by US and Canadian users to phones in the US and Canada absolutely free until the end of the year:
Skype has now removed any cost barrier for its American and Canadian customers to keep in touch with friends, family and business associates. Skype anticipates that completely free calling in the US and Canada will expand Skype’s increasing penetration in North America and solidify Skype’s position as the Internet’s voice communication tool of choice. More people will now have the chance to benefit from Skype’s premium services and online calling capabilities.
“Millions of consumers around the world are flocking to Skype every month, and we believe free SkypeOut calling will rapidly accelerate Skype adoption in the US and Canada,” said Henry Gomez, General Manager, Skype North America. “We’re very excited to be bringing Skype’s convenience and voice quality to so many people for free.”
While SkypeOut calls within the US and Canada will now be free, SkypeOut calls to and within all other countries will continue to incur charges. Those charges are unchanged by today’s announcement and remain among the lowest available to consumers.
Last week Skype released a new beta version of its software that adds even more features and functionality to Skype’s voice and video calling options, including: SMS; simplified dialing; payments in Skype; Outlook contact integration; call quality management; simplified registration; shared contact groups; and improved conference calling. On May 1, after just more than two and a half years in operation, Skype achieved 100 million registered users worldwide.
It’s the ever popular “give ‘em a taste to get ‘em hooked” technique so popular with drug dealers everywhere. Hey, if it works then who can blame them?
I downloaded the software the other day to try out mainly because of a different new feature they recently introduced called SkypeCasts. It’s basically a conference calling mode or voice chat room depending on how you want to look at it where you basically hook up with a bunch of other Skype users to talk over top of each other while arguing about whatever the hell you want to argue about. You can have around 100 people all trying to talk at the same time which could make for some interesting conversations or just a lot of noise. Using a plugin you can even record the Skypecast to share with others later who are interested in hearing a bunch of people talk over each other.
The reason I wanted to try it out is because I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting a couple of other regulars here to sit down at some point and do a Skypecast where we respond to questions folks write in about and then put it up on SEB here, but I don’t know that I’m the right guy to try and organize such a thing. I’m also much less eloquent when speaking than I am when writing because it’s much more off-the-cuff whereas a lot of my writing involves time spent thinking and researching my answers. Still, the idea intriques me. Alas, the only other person I know who uses Skype is Neil Turner of Neil’s World who, being in the U.K., is several hours in the future from me making trying to call him a hit or miss proposition as I often close down all my IM clients when I’m busy killing Orcs in World of Warcrack so I’ve not actually tested it out yet. Still, this free calling option gives me reason to give it a go by calling any of a number of phone numbers just to see how well my connection holds up. If you’ve been meaning to check it out yourself then now may be a good time.