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Technology Tuesday – Skype: What’s the Hype?

by Gail Kouame – guest blogger

Some of you may remember Alison’s Thanksgiving post about technologies for which we are thankful. I chose Skype as my gratitude-inducing resource. Why? Well, read on…

Skype is a free piece of software you can download so that you can communicate with people around the world easily (and maybe even have some fun at the same time). Many of the features in Skype are free, especially those that include other Skype users.

Once you set up a profile in Skype, you can start searching their global user directory for other Skype users – you can search by name, email address, location, or other criteria. You can also use the Send Contacts feature to acquire and share contacts. Part of the “fun factor” is that you can personalize your profile and add a photo, or an avatar, or other image that you choose.

Once you have established a list of contacts, you can start taking advantage of the various features and tools in Skype. The feature I use most is the Instant Messaging/Chat. It is a great alternative to email when you just want to ask quick questions as opposed to trying to use email to have a “back and forth” online discussion. You can also have group chats, if you want to include others in the conversation. You can even send and receive documents using Skype. These are both great ways to avoid bogging down email inboxes!

The other element of Skype you may have heard about is the Voice Over IP (VOIP) feature that allows you to “call” someone using your computer. Again, this feature is free if you are contacting another Skype user. My friends who need to make a lot of international phone calls absolutely love having this capability. Recently I spoke to an international student who told me he uses Skype almost nightly to communicate with his family back home. Talk about cutting down on a major phone bill!

Don’t let me lead you to believe that everything in Skype is free – some of their services come with fees attached, but it is unlikely you would use one without knowing it. Refer to their web site for more information about other features and tools.

Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. It is available in 28 languages and is “used in almost every country around the world.” It is based in Luxembourg.

Technology Tuesday will be on hiatus until January 6, 2009. Happy Holidays all you technology fans! 🙂

3 Responses to “Technology Tuesday – Skype: What’s the Hype?”

  1. Isaac Huffman Says:

    Two things that I find especially useful about Skype vs other online communication services are

    1) working video chat. Although may of use services like iChat etc that have a video communication component, no service is as stable as Skype when it comes to video chat. These means virtual tours of new library space are easy conducted using a laptop and wireless internet or face to face conferences. It easy to setup it works it talks to PC and Macs Alike. It works like those video phones of the future we where always promised.

    2) Gail mentioned you can send a receive documents over chat a great feature. But missed the most important part “No size limits on your file transfer” meaning you can send that 1200dpi scan of that rare book or that 120gb backup of your entire catalog without getting a blocked email message. I’ve sent hundreds a 14.7 megapixels photos @ a time with no problems.

    Keep up the good work

  2. Gail Kouame Says:

    Thanks, Issac! The “no size limit” feature is definitely a huge bonus. I haven’t tried the video chat that you describe. Something new to try out.

  3. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Gail and Isaac. Thanks for the uesful overview, Gail and the point about big files, Isaac. Always looking for ways to send whopping documents. Thanks!