Categories
Telecoms

Skype isn’t really down

You probably noticed that Skype seemed to be offline today. It turns out that the service is only partially down. The central issue seems to be that status indicators aren’t working properly so your contacts seem to be offline even though you can still message them. According to Skype’s blog post titled “Skype presence issues“:

Affected users will not be able to change their status, their contacts will all show as offline and they will be unable to start Skype calls to them.

Instant messages are still being delivered as usual. The status issue also doesn’t affect Skype for Web, which can be used to make calls and send instant messages.

It looks like messaging works.

Update (2015-09-21): Not everyone is convinced by Skype’s explanation:

This is certainly the only time Skype has been down that I can remember.

Update (2015-09-22): The issue seems to have been resolved.

Image credit: touch-tone by vistavision, licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Categories
Telecoms

Who needs a phone number when you have Skype?

I decided to explore VoIP options a few years ago and I was fairly excited about Skype Numbers for a while and subscribed. That gave me a local landline number which, when called, connected the caller to me through Skype. In theory it is a great idea but I found that the latency on the calls was terrible. It was about 2 seconds but it was noticeable and made voice calls painful so I abandoned the idea.

I’ve started thinking about alternatives to a regular phone number again lately and came back to Skype Numbers. I wonder if the increases in bandwidth have reduced the latency or if it is still so noticeable? Is it possible to give up a¬†landline (or even a mobile line) and switch entirely to VoIP with notional landline numbers for legacy callers?

This idea reminds me a bit of the recently announced Microsoft Lync successor, Skype for Business:

As much as I love FaceTime and prefer the idea of Hangouts to Microsoft options, Skype is still a pretty decent experience and I keep coming back to it for video meetings with clients. Maybe its time to try Skype Numbers again?

Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Social Web

Simplifying the crowded messaging space

The messaging space seems to be the antithesis of email. Where email works using common protocols and a variety of email applications that all support them, messaging apps rarely talk to each other and basically function in silos. The messaging space is a surprisingly tricky one to dominate but a few of the services are in the lead and I can’t help but wonder if they are about to be unsettled in the near future.

Skype announced an update to its Mac app that brings it closer to recent mobile app updates that seem to emphasise messaging more and I thought it would be interesting to find out what people use as their dominant messaging app/service. I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and received some answers I wasn’t expecting.

 

The trend seems to be that messaging is a mobile thing and the preferred messaging apps are either WhatsApp or iMessage. At least based on the responses I received on Twitter and Facebook. The responses I received on LinkedIn all included Skype as an option with others including Redphone and IBM Sametime. This is hardly a scientific survey but the differences are revealing.

I thought that, perhaps, Skype is so prevalent that as Skype improves the mobile experience it could become a compelling mobile messaging option with an established desktop presence. It could even become a dominant messaging and VOIP platform that could supplant other choices but that doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Instead, people opt for a more fragmented approach with a fairly clear distinction between the mobile and desktop options (unless you have to use Viber which has desktop and mobile apps).

I put together a rough comparison of the various messaging options in a Google Sheets document and when I look at the feedback I received from people who responded, it certainly isn’t the case that the most widely supported app wins. WhatsApp’s and iMessage’s dominance don’t seem to be affected by their limited support (either across mobile/desktop in WhatsApp’s case or Mac and iOS vs all other platforms in iMessage’s case). Mobile trumps desktop and becoming the industry leader requires a lot more than cross-platform support.

Perhaps, like Twitter, becoming the preferred messaging choice requires a simpler, frictionless experience and not the apparent UX overhead that comes with more complex, cross-platform alternatives?

That said, I wonder if the dark horse in this race isn’t, perhaps, Facebook Messenger? It has pretty capable mobile apps, is accessible in your browser and integrates with Skype. Bring along Facebook’s 1.5+ billion users and you have a pretty compelling choice largely because the people you would want to keep in touch with are a download away because they already use Facebook. Facebook’s aggressive push to persuade users to download the Facebook Messenger app makes a lot more sense because if you are already sharing your life with friends and family on Facebook and have the Facebook Messenger app installed on your device, why not just use that for your messaging requirements too? Skype then becomes just another road that leads to Facebook.

For now, though, the messaging space is pretty cluttered but consolidation has to happen at some point. The bigger players are going to want to start entrenching themselves even further and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of WhatsApp-Facebook Messenger integration down the line to bring all those WhatsApp users into the broader Facebook ecosystem to create a massive, more coherent and encompassing social experience.

Categories
Mobile Tech Telecoms

Skype or FNB Connect (SIP VoIP)?

We’re testing VoIP options for our office. Both Skype and FNB Connect give us local numbers people can call us on. FNB Connect’s call rates are cheaper than Skype’s although Skype is already pretty entrenched in our office from an IM perspective and we use Skype to chat to clients through Skype to Skype calls.

Which would you recommend and why? Is the one technically superior over the other? Does the one harm fewer fairies and kittens?

On a related note, here is a little poll I created and I’ll appreciate your thoughts: