Has COVID Extended Skype's Usefulness?

In 2014, Skype was so big it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb, an indication of how popular the service had become.

Skype for Business is being retired in favour of Teams and in March, Microsoft announced Teams is coming for consumers and many assumed this signalled the end for Skype. But has COVID extended its usefulness?

A Look Back

Skype was originally based on peer-to-peer technology which had some issues working on mobile devices. Microsoft began transitioning those P2P networks to cloud servers in 2013 in an effort to improve it’s somewhat unpopular mobile apps.

The transition was messy and stretched over years which lead to messages, calls and notifications appearing on multiple devices and poor reliability. Microsoft continued to tinker away and users gradually started moving away due to the combination of poor reliability and constantly changing user experience.

It was during this period that Microsoft rolled out Skype for Business to replace Lync, but the Skype brand had suffered some damage.

So in 2016 and Microsoft launched Microsoft Teams. Teams became Microsoft’s central focus for messaging, chat and video communications with future plans to replace Skype for business in the enterprise space, and this March it was announced they would push Teams into the consumer space and many assumed it would replace Skype to become a ubiquitous communication and collaboration platform.


The Big ‘C’          

And then in March, a certain worldwide pandemic landed. This cat amongst the proverbial pigeons turned much of the world on it’s head and video conferencing, chat and collaboration were suddenly something millions of locked-down workers had to adopt.

Zoom grabbed all the headlines and quickly became a household name. The UK government were using it for cabinet meetings, news reporters and TV stars used it to broadcast from home and in April it was reported that Zoom had rapidly grown to 300 million meeting participants. A simple interface and reliable service was hugely attractive to many users. As were the free meetings. Despite some well documented privacy issues, workers, friends and families trying to stay in touch flocked to use it.

Communication tools tend to be adopted in groups. If a person is using Zoom, and invites their friends, colleagues or family to a Zoom meeting, the chances are those people will adopt it if they find it good to use (especially if their own tool had issues) and in turn invite others, spreading the adoption wider.

Other platforms such as Google Hangouts were slower to react and offer their services for free.

Old Faithful

But behind the high-profile Zoom, and the understandable spike in users across most communication platforms, including Teams, Skype saw some amazing growth. Skype passed 40 million daily active users, an increase of 70% month over month. Furthermore, Skype to Skype calling minutes were up 220% month over month.

This demonstrates that many users are still comfortable using the familiar Skype platform and plans to migrate to Teams have either been stalled by immediate remote working requirements and the need to quickly setup and work with a familiar tool.

In a recent Venture Beat article, a Microsoft spokesperson said “For now, Skype will remain a great option for customers who love it and want to connect with basic chat and video calling capabilities,”

Likewise, many enterprise users planning their migration from Skype for Business have had to put those plans on hold and must re-think their collaboration strategy to adapt to the new working norms of the post-lockdown office.

So despite the longer term plans to move all it’s users to Teams as a unified platform, Skype might be around a little longer than we assumed.