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Layman's explanation of Skype

12 Jul 2012

Social media plays a major role in how we communicate, share files and photos, do business, and meet new people. We have witnessed the power of social media through the rise of YouTube stars and videos like KONY 2012, which had the ability to bring people from all over the world together in an online community for change. We have watched movies about Facebook (The Social Network), started making phone calls and conducting meetings over Skype, and watched celebrities repeatedly stick a foot in their mouths using Twitter.

It has come to the point where there are so many different social media platforms out there, we are beginning to lose track. And for those of us who never quite latched on to the social media bandwagon in the first place (which has now obviously proven to be much more than just a bandwagon!) this article is for you. So you can finally learn your tweets from your pokes, your hashtags from your diggs.

Part four of our series explains the basics of Skype below. While tomorrow we will be explaining Google+.


Summary: A software application that allows users to make voice and video calls, as well as participate in instant messaging, over the internet.

Background: Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennström from Sweden, Janus Friis from Denmark and Samuel Grey from New Jersey. The Skype software was developed by Estonians Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn, who were also the creators of the peer-to-peer file sharing software Kazaa. The first public beta version of Skype was released in August 2003.

In 2010, Skype had 663 million registered users, and that number is growing in leaps and bounds every day. One of the major differences between Skype and other VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services is that Skype is a peer-to-peer system rather than client-server. This is reflected in the name “Skype” which comes from “Sky peer-to-peer” – the original name for the software.

Use it for: Keeping in touch with friends, relatives, and colleagues all around the world for free.

From a business perspective: Great for long distance job interviews and meetings. However, since it runs through the internet, quality depends on your internet connection.

The BasicsChatIn addition to voice and video calling, Skype also offers an instant messaging service (like MSN or Facebook chat).

Skype creditThere are a variety of features available on Skype at a low cost, which you can take advantage of by purchasing Skype credit.

Conference CallsThis is perfect for catching up with a group of friends, especially when you are all in different places! You can organise your contacts on Skype into groups (or add individual contacts/numbers to the call) and click on ‘call group’.

VoicemailIf one of your contacts tries calling you when you are away from the computer, you can activate a voicemail service (just like on your phone) for free. To do this, simply visit the Skype website and click on the ‘features’ tab and then ‘voicemail’. Once your voicemail is activated, in your Skype account, click Tools>Options>Calls>Voicemail to record your message and organise your voicemail settings.

Getting Started

  • First you have to download the program. This can be done by visiting the Skype website at and is available for free for the basic version or at a low monthly fee for the premium version, which includes group video calls, live-chat customer support and 25% off an HD webcam with purchase.
  • When creating an account, you will be asked to include profile information and choose a Skype name.
  • Once Skype is set up on your computer, try testing it before you begin using it for real. To do this, click on the contact called ‘Skype Test Call’ or ‘Echo/Sound Test Service’. This is an automated testing robot and will allow you to check that your headset, speakers and microphone are up and running properly.
  • Next, you can begin to add contacts. To find friends, select the ‘search for Skype users’ option from the ‘contacts’ menu or press the ‘add a contact’ in the left corner of your contact list.
  • Now that you’ve added all your contacts, you’re ready to start calling! Select a Skype name from your contact list and click the green ‘call’ button. To end the call, simply click the red ‘end call’ button.

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