We’re starting with one that many people will be aware of, because it’s been around since 2003 – Skype. Initially developed to reduce the cost of long-distance and international calling by using peer-to-peer systems instead of a regular telephone line, it has since developed into an all-purpose internet messaging, voice (VoIP) and video conferencing application, owned by Microsoft.
You can log in with any existing Microsoft account if you have one, or join as a guest if you don’t want to make an account – someone just needs to invite you to the conversation. You can also use the browser-based Skype for Web if you don’t want to download the software, or are working on a computer or other device where that’s not possible – such as a borrowed or managed device.
While Microsoft is pushing Teams for business use (the video and voice client in Teams is in fact built on the same protocols Skype uses) there is still a niche for Skype in business and working environments. It’s quite user-friendly, where Teams may not be to someone new to the software, and is a single-purpose communication tool rather than being a full collaboration and communications platform as Teams is. While the software itself works better in one-to-one or small group situations, it can still be used to hold a large conference call if necessary, with some users on video and others on audio only.
It can be used for messaging and file-sending where necessary, and has other features like the ability to call normal phone lines, or purchase a Skype number anywhere in the world that people can use to call you from a regular mobile or landline – they call you from their phone, you answer on your computer or mobile device with a data connection. Essentially, this can give you a local number anywhere in the world – for example, if you have clients or colleagues in France or Spain, you can use Skype to purchase a French or Spanish number to allow those people to call you at local call rates.
Skype has been a staple for personal users for over a decade. It is known for being quite easy-to-use and supports a large number of devices, running on many different operating systems, unlike options such as FaceTime – which is of course only available on Apple devices.
Its ease-of-use makes it ideal for keeping in contact with family and friends, as they can use their mobile device to answer or make a Skype call from or to any other device, as long as they have a Wi-Fi or data connection.
With social distancing and other lockdown restrictions constantly changing, video chat apps such as Skype have become a reliable way to have some kind of visual contact with the people that matter most to us – whether it’s work colleagues, doctors, personal trainers, friends, family or even sometimes pets!