TechWeekEurope takes a look at the history of the VoIP pioneer
It has been exactly a decade since Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis released an application that could enable free calls for anyone with an Internet connection. Today, Skype is owned by Microsoft, has 300 million users around the world, and handles an equivalent to over a third of all international phone traffic.
As the company celebrated its birthday, it confirmed plans to eventually launch 3D video conversations.
In an interview with the BBC, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president for Skype Mark Gillett said the feature was up and running at Skype labs. However, it might take years to refine the 3D technology and get it into shape ready for mass adoption.
Happy birthday, Skype
Skype software was originally written by Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn – three developers from Estonia, who previously worked with Zennström and Friis on the peer-to-peer file sharing client Kazaa.
The first public beta version of Skype (name derived from “Sky peer-to-peer”) was released on 29 August 2003. It was the right time and place to launch a simple, free VoIP solution, and in the next two years, the number of registered accounts skyrocketed to 54 million.
In September 2005, the company was acquired by eBay for approximately $2.6 billion. Several months later, Skype introduced video calls for the very first time. By early 2008, the tumultuous ownership relations between the founders and eBay had resulted in several leadership shake-ups. Zennström and Friis left the company they created, and in 2009, 70 percent of Skype was sold to a combination of venture funds.
In May 2011, Microsoft announced it had agreed to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion – its largest ever acquisition, which valued the company at 32 times its operating profits. Skype became a division of Microsoft, with Skype’s former CEO Tony Bates becoming its president. In June, this division took over the management of Lync – Microsoft’s own VoIP service, which was subsequently made interoperable with Skype.
“The birth of Skype in 2003 introduced a massive revolution in how we use technology to connect and communicate with each other. It brought video conferencing to the masses by providing a very cost-effective, easy to use way of speaking to friends and family around the world face-to-face, and led the way as a consumer technology that was quickly adopted by business users,” commented Simon Pamplin, director of Systems Engineering for West EMEA at Brocade.
“Who knows what new technologies we can expect to be using in ten years’ time? But the success of Skype and its impact shows the need for businesses to get their networks ready now.”
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