What is Skype™ Software?

R. Kayne

Skype™ software is freeware that allows people and businesses to use Skype's voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) network. Using VOIP people can make voice calls over the Internet on their home or office PCs. Skype™ is the most successful VOIP network with many millions of users worldwide, boasting crystal-clear calls and free Skype-to-Skype calling anywhere in the world. In 2008 Skype™ software added a video feature, allowing callers with webcams to view each other live while chatting.


Skype™ software doesn’t require any special hardware though a broadband connection is recommended. A contact list, analogous to a phone book, keeps other Skype users a click away. Highlight a person from your contact list, click the “call” button” and wait for the ringtone and the person to answer. The quality of the call is many times better than a standard phone line, and you can talk as long as you like for free. Calls are also encrypted, making Skype™ completely secure and private.

Skype software enables people to make voice phone calls from their computers.
Skype software enables people to make voice phone calls from their computers.

Though PC speakers and a microphone can be used, Skype™ encourages a VIOP headset for a better experience. If you have a Webcam, you can take advantage of video calling. If you don’t have a built-in Webcam, external models plug into any USB port with prices starting at about $29 US Dollars (USD). A Webcam will also allow you to take advantage of Skype’s free five-way video conferencing.

Some computers may need headphones to complete a Skype call.
Some computers may need headphones to complete a Skype call.

The advantages of Skype™ are many. If you have family, friends — or in the case of a business, offices — non-local or even internationally, there is no cheaper or better way to communicate than free, using Skype™ software. No subscription or fees of any kind are required for this basic service of Skype-to-Skype calling. You can use your Skype™ software 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without limits or caps.

Skype can help people traveling for work stay in touch with relatives at home.
Skype can help people traveling for work stay in touch with relatives at home.

The disadvantage of using Skype™ over traditional means of telephoning is that all parties must have Skype™ software running, so PCs must be on, and Skype must be enabled. Skype™ is not a replacement for landline or cell phone service, as there is no emergency service.

Skype™ software allows for some interesting settings. For example, you can choose to temporarily disable privacy settings, allowing all Skypers presently on the network to see your contact name and know you are available to take a call from friends or strangers. In the terms of service contract, Skype™ does require users be at least 18 years of age.

Skype™ software incorporates optional pay-for services. Two of these are called SkypeIn and SkypeOut. If you use SkypeOut you can call a landline or cell phone from your Skype™ account at a reduced rate from normal telco service. As of this writing, that rate is 2.1 US cents per minute to call anywhere in the world. Since this is a pay-as-you-go service, the subscriber must buy a block of minutes up front.

SkypeIn will lease you a Skype phone number that can be used by friends and family to call your Skype account from a cell phone or landline. For example, let's say you'll be taking a trip abroad and would like to stay in touch with people back home without paying international fees or roaming charges, but some of these people do not use computers or are not running Skype™ software. You can get a Skype™ phone number issued in your home area code so that the calls made to you by friends and family will only be charged as local calls. Meanwhile, you’ll pay nothing for accepting the calls using your Skype™ software. The only charge you’ll pay is to lease the Skype™ phone number.

SkypeIn can also be a useful tool for businesses with international clients. Since numbers are available in many countries around the world, you can lease a Skype™ number local to the business associate instead of to yourself. Now the associate can call a local number to reach you anywhere in the world. Skype™ voicemail is also available for a fee.

A key criticism of Skype is that it is proprietary software and a proprietary network that rejects open-source standards. While disappointing to some, it doesn’t seem to be slowing Skype’s growth. Skype was created by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis who also created KaZaA, a peer-to-peer network, subsequently sold.

Students often use Skype to check in with their parents while away at college.
Students often use Skype to check in with their parents while away at college.

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Discussion Comments


Yeah, Skype is great for casual social interactions with family and friends. But for business conferences, I need more security, so I use RHUB, which works from behind my firewall (instead of outside of it). It also provides free audio conferencing.


There are alternatives available to Skype including systems that have hardware accessories available so the person wishing to communicate can use a hand held like device.

This will allow for users to have more of a traditional phone style conversation then with using a laptop. Luckily a lot of laptops now come equipped with Bluetooth so you can communicate via a headset rather then just through the built in microphone.


One trend that I have noticed recently regarding Skype is the use of it by media organizations that have journalists in areas that they cannot get a satellite connection but the internet is available. This bridge in the communication gap has allowed for a lot more diversity in the areas that reporters can check in from.

The video quality difference between a true satellite link and the use of Skype is very big with the satellite connection bringing unsurpassed and high definition capable signals. Skype on the other hand is not know for it's video quality. Despite this, the networks are still turning to Skype when needed and the viewers don't seem to mind much at all.


Skype is no doubt a revolution in long range communication but we simply cannot praise it as the end-all to visual communications. After all, for everyone who has ever used Skype for video chat can tell you, there is a significant degradation that the compression does to the video. Even if you have a relatively advanced camera to use with the software there really lacks an ability to see the video stream without noticing visual distortion, artifacting and color degradation.

Even then, we all know it's a great program.


@sammyG is right about how incredible Skype is at keeping up long distance relationships but the best part about Skype is simply the price. Skype is free! Free as in the sense that you don't have to pay to use the service but it does require a decently fast computer and broadband internet connection on both ends of the users. A web camera is required if you wish to be able to communicate via video.

While that might sound like a lot there is a large amount of people that already have this hardware and technology available to them. Most laptop computers now come with a web camera installed and the microphones are as well. With this combination you have a portable and wireless solution to long distance communication.

All this wonderful technology makes me wonder just how long it is that telecommunication companies will be able to keep in business or at least how long will the land lines that we traditionally converse over exist. Only time will tell.


Skype is simply amazing. This software has radically changed the way that my family is able to communicate over long distances. The ability to see my loved ones face to face has made all the difference when living thousands of miles away from them.

It is one thing to hear the voice of a lover over the telephone but when you can see a live picture of them it can mean the difference between love and love lost.

If you have never tried using Skype or another voice/video over IP program then I highly recommend you try, especially if you have loved ones far away from where you are.

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