Saturday, August 28, 2010

Skype Going IPO - will we lose a wonderful technology?

Earlier this month, the news broke that Skype was preparing to go public, i.e. to file an IPO. The New York Times article  said early in the article:

"Skype, which offers free or low-cost voice and video calls over the Internet, has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2003 by two entrepreneurs, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis." 


Yes. For good reason. Skype has been a boon to the average person who wants to connect with friends, families, relatives, who live far away. If you only call nationally within the US, then you likely have a "nationwide" cell phone plan, and do not pay for long distance domestic calls. But if you wish to call overseas, and talk for any length of time, the costs can be prohibitive for the average Jane or Joe. Skype was designed as a benefit for society, for all of society. The founders, Zennstrom and Friis had philanthropic ideas in mind when they decided to distribute Skype free, and dirt cheap if you chose to call from a computer to a regular phone. 


After they sold Skype to eBay which then sold it to an investor group, Zennstrom and Friis had to go to court to regain some control, after they didn't like the direction they saw their product being taken. And now, it looks like there are again possible signs of trouble for the philanthropically minded.


The same NYT article quoted above said:


"Skype, which is mostly used by private individuals, has also been trying to move into the corporate market, where potential customers have had security concerns."


and:


"Unlike some technology companies that turn to the market to raise money, Skype is profitable, reporting net income of $13 million, on revenue of $406 million, in the first six months."


What does this mean? Will Skype move away from the philosophy of equal access freely available to computer users that was championed by the founders? It sounds like this could happen. Very worry some, considering that a profitable entity that has done a world of good (no pun intended) for people from all walks of life may go the route of putting increased profits ahead of a philosophy of helping people that was originally intended. When they aren't even losing money!


We have to wait and see what happens. I am sure I'm not the only person holding my breath and hoping for a positive outcome for "the average" Skype user who just wants to stay in touch with friends and family far away. It would be a shame to take away this incredibly positive use of computing technology.

2 comments:

  1. If Skype's outcome is not "positive", I'm sure there will be others that surface to fill the needs you describe. That is until the patent trolls come along and attempt to squash them.

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  2. Hi Pete,
    Yes - Skype has been such an excellent example of how a really well conceived and designed product can go viral for all the right reasons. I hope that a desire to maximize corporate profits and satisfy shareholders above all else doesn't derail it. Skype is so unique; hard to imagine something replacing it that originates from a corporate setting. Sometimes you don't realize how good something is until it threatens to go away.

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