With the recent sale of Skype to its original founders and some venture capitalists, you have to wonder if this may be the route back to Skype being able to get back to being the “cool kid” again.
In Oct. 2005 Internet auction house eBay purchased the popular VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service Skype. The idea was that the company would integrate the service into its auctions to ease communication between sellers and buyers, but after a very limited test in select auction categories, the idea just kind of evaporated without comment. eBay was then stuck with a service that seemed to have absolutely no connection to its core business, and Skype just kind of languished in limbo as everyone wondered what its ultimate fate would be.
Original company founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis expressed interest in purchasing the service back, but eBay seemed to have no interest in selling. Well, when you can’t get a company to sell, you sue them for patent infringement over the core technology its built on! Zennström and Friis claimed that the core technology Skype was built on was only licensed from them and eBay’s license had expired. If they had won their lawsuit, eBay would have had to rebuild Skype from the ground up, so they settled the lawsuit by selling a controlling interest in the service back to the founders and a couple of venture capital firms.
So, now with the service back under the control of the original founders, where does the service go from here? There was a time where Skype actually looked poised to take over home telephony with partners such as Philips making the great VOIP841 handsets that let you use Skype without even needing anything more than an Ethernet connection. There were numerous solutions such as this at one point, but try finding one now. Believe me, I’ve tried, they no longer exist.
There have been some moves into the mobile space, most notably the deal with UK mobile company 3 which allows users to access Skype over its traditional cellular network, but beyond that, there have been some half-hearted mobile application attempts. The iPhone app was handicapped from the get go, although a deal has been attempted. BlackBerry’s still lacks an official app, and there have been nothing but empty promises from both companies about when one would finally be delivered.
This is of course not to say that the service hasn’t grown under the stewardship of eBay, it is just to say that it hasn’t grown like it should have. By now the company should truly have every other VoIP service, as well as traditional phone companies, on the run.
So here we are, the service is back in the hands of those people who originally crafted it with love. Will they be able to get the service back on the fast track to world domination, or are we in for more half-hearted attempts that leave you feeling empty? Come on, Skype, get your mojo back!