I’ve been a big fan of Skype, pretty much since its beginning. In fact, for a while it’s been my main means of communication. To a degree it is true even today. This is why it is particularly sad that Skype is losing it. Basically I am talking about its services getting worse and more expensive at the same time.
Skype-out is probably the only service that has improved in the recent years. That is probably natural, because this is one of the main, if not the main, paid services Skype offers. However, everything else is simply getting worse…
The regular, Skype-to-Skype calls are more or less ok, especially if you are ready to screen out the background noises, echoes, and frequent delays. Things become really bad when you are trying to have a long conversation. It seems like the skype-machine somewhere out there is heating and just stop functioning at some point, which results in a call drop. The first drop happens after 30-40 minutes, and if you are trying to call the same user again, your calls would drop even at a higher frequency with every consequent attempt. If you are using video then the call drop issue appears even faster. I think after about 15 minutes it simply disconnects.
An even more annoying “feature”, which i noticed in the last few weeks is that the chat function in Skype delays delivery of the messages. This is more or less the only IM program i know that has this problem. In fact, you can never know if what you’ve typed, reached the person on the other side. After a while it may (or sometimes, may not) show you a message “X messages not delivered yet” and it may stay there for very long periods. Sometimes logging off and back in helps, but sometimes it doesn’t. In the last few weeks it became realy frequent and really annoying.
It wouldn’t be that annoying if MSN, for example, wouldn’t perform all the same functions with higher reliability. Although the quality of sound and video are not as good, they are at least stable. The chat function there doesn’t have this annoying glitch of undelivered messages. Not surprisingly, recently i am finding myself more and more on MSN.
As i said, the Skype-out sound quality has probably improved. At the same time, this improvement is coming along with an increase in price. It seems to me that skype-out is reaching the point where it will make no difference if one is using it, or a regular phone company that has clear advantages in terms of reliability.
In general, the pricing strategy of Skype is indeed annoying. I had a Skype-in number for a year. But after that they simply doubled the price, which made it an absolutely useless deal, at least for me. I have a mobile phone, which is in fact my primary number, so paying over $60 a year for an additional number doesn’t make much sense. At the same time, you cannot really make Skype your primary number and give up the mobile, because Skype’s mobility (and reliability) is limited (at least provided the gadgets i have).
I also tried using Skype-zones, a service it provides together with Boingo that is supposed to give you access to the hundreds of Boingo-operated hot-spots all over the world. I tried it a few times. In some cases it worked. In others i didn’t really need it, because the hot-spot was free anyway. But in most cases it just failed to access the hot-spot using the Skype-Boyingo widget. Last time, this summer, it was particularly annoying because it didn’t manage to provide the service even once.
The bottom line of my observation is that Skype is losing it. The basic service it became known for, is getting worse and the new ones are not competitive. So, unless there will be a major update and/or change in strategy, it is about time to thank Skype for the breakthrough in VoIP, and move on to look for the next solution that will be able to deliver.