The Hype about Skype

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

With a recent Oprah endorsement, Skype has seen user ship jump sky-high in just a few short months. Despite being in operation since 2002, the service, which is now owned by eBay, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. So with all of this hype about Skype, you may begin to wonder – what’s the big deal?

Skype, which rhymes with type, is an Internet-based communication service that allows users to call each other from any place in the world through their computers for free. You can even make calls through your computers to cell phones and landlines for a small fee.

So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one really. You have to have Internet service in order to use Skype, and both users must have downloaded the program for your call to go through. Sometimes call quality is not crystal clear and there can be an echo or fading in and out, but with international phone rates being as much as $5 per minute, you can hardly complain about a service that offers the same for free.

This Skype screenshot shows a live video feed via web cam.
The computer-to-computer service is free worldwide.
Photo Source: Skype

In addition to being able to call users via Skype, you can also send instant messages, pictures and videos to users on your Skype buddy list, which allows you to see when they’re online and available. Call forwarding and voicemail are other features that are useful for travelers, students studying abroad and anyone who has a computer and doesn’t want to pay long-distance calling fees.

If you plan to Skype friends and family at home while you’re traveling, download the software to test it out before you leave. Test call each of your contacts to work out any bugs. For example, your computer has to have a microphone in order to use Skype, so while you can talk into the speaker on newer laptops, this may not be the case for PCs and older laptops. Working out these details in advance is the best way to prevent communication barriers once you’re on the road.

You'll never know when Skype will come in handy during your travels! Kris and I announced our engagement to our families and friends through Skype, which was a nice alternative to email to actually be able to share the night's events and excitement in realtime. Happy Skyping!


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