Accelerating Innovation | Skype Journal | VoIP

Unbound Spiral: Why Skype Growth is Slowing

November 18, 2003 10:32 AM

What is ailing Skype growth today? The link below is hardly a statistical sample on Skype yet some numbers ring true. Read it all for more. What underlies the numbers is that Skype growth is changing. New users (like my son are online sporadically, he uses it with friends while teaming up to play games online). For the rest I hear the frequent story of I only have three or four buddies on my list.....

So a few quick notes on:

  • Number of buddies,
  • Always-on approach,
  • connection quality,
  • Conferencing and a
  • Telephone.

    But more people need to use Skype for it to really have an impact. So far, 67 people have taken the poll, and 64 percent of them say they are put off by the service because they don't know anyone else that uses it. A further 45 percent say they would be more likely to use Skype if their friends and family signed up for it.

    Still, less than 10 weeks after launching, 52 percent of poll-takers think broadband telephony services like Skype will absolutely replace the PSTN. Roughly 47 percent believe Skype won't accomplish this alone, but that future broadband telephony services might do it see Skype Spooks Operators).
    Boardwatch

    Number of Buddies: When I've spoken to others I find many only have 3-4 buddies on their list. That tends to kill the system, particularly if they aren't live all the time. As the research notes... Skype really works for globally dispersed families. I had a wonderful chat with a friend in the UK who has family in Columbia and the US. He said "Skype changes the way our family communicates". I know it has with mine. However many of these new Skypers are not used to IM and buddy lists. There's a discomfort factor with "visibility". That's going to take more than Skype's current iteration to change. It requires "profile management" with degrees of access. Voicemail would be a big help. Voice-mail cures the interruptions and creates accessibility.

    Always-On: The slowing of those online currently 144000 vs the number of downloads means SKYPE runs the risk of being and "on" or "off" product rather than an always on or one that's always active in the sys tray. Perhaps that is the preferred behavior. However, without the voicemail encouragement that is what it will be. Skype's utility vs other IM systems decreases when treated in this fashion.

    Connection Quality: I've had some occurrences with poor connection quality. I can't figure out what the problem is, why the packets are being lost etc. For the most part the sound quality holds up to the praise Skype has received. However, a new user with poor sound will give up after the first call and will fail to understand what all the fuss is about. I know two people that Skype fails with for me each and every time. One of these guys is a telco exec and the other is a collaboration expert. They have appropriate equipment and we've trialled other VoIP apps together which work. I remain baffled by it. One is local the other is international. I know Skype isn't working for them with other callers too.

    Conferencing: Will be a killer application for Skype. Business and collaboration reasons are great, I also know it will bring many kids along too. I've been watching my son's Skype adoption. He likes the hands free (no telephone to hold) while taking on the gaming world with a buddy. While Socom and other games have enabled it online the sound quality remains poor. They also have little control over who they are playing with. Enable the "pack" and they will run rogue in these games together. Running multi-phone lines off a single PC has been done. It will take something like this for them to move their buddies from AIM to Skype.

    Telephone: I've experimented with USB phones (they only sort of work and poorly so far) and in all cases the sound deteriorates from the headset. I've not tried a bluetooth solution. Although with the right cellphone that might become interesting. Skype and programs like it still need a phone. We no longer communicate locked down to our PC's, the tethered requirement is a deadweight.



    Comments (3)

    My comment is not specific to this post, but related to it, and Skype and VoIP in general.

    It's hard to say this without sounding like a trouble-maker, but honestly that is not my intention. I want to encourage you to think about employing a SIP-based solution, if not now, please keep it in the back of your mind.

    The advantge of SIP for all of us is that it is an interoperable standard, being embraced and adopted by many vendors. SIP is like the 802.11b of VoIP. It means we can (soon) buy phones at Bestbuy and like email, if we have a SIP address with one provider, we can still make calls to people on other providers.

    Skype, on the other hand, is like Compuserv. It is a proprietary closed system. It might even be that Skype today offers a better overall product experience in practice, so I can understand why people use it. SIP-based products and services have to compete, but I think they will continue to get better, so I hope you continue to consider SIP-based solutions.

    With SIP, if I want to use my PC as a phone I can (e.g. xten.com, or many others) or if I want to use an IP phone, I can also, and I can choose from any number of vendors/styles/models etc. just like I can choose an 802.11-based wireless solution from any of several vendors. With Skype, I have one vendor, one choice of platform.

    Anyway, I'm glad you benefit from Skype, but I hope in the not too distant future you find a SIP-based solution that meets your needs. If not, then we have failed, and we all suffer.

    Posted by: David Beckemeyer at December 7, 2003 10:20 AM

    Hum, who said growth slowed down?

    Posted by: ets at January 30, 2004 10:53 AM

    Agree on all points. My family and friends use Skype extensively across Japan and the US, but things like no voicemail make it incrementally less attractive, and with these things, there is a adoption cliff that has to be reached. Each shortcoming-- voicemail, choppy quality, closed system (i.e., no SIP interoperability)-- not only discourages adoption, but it can put off a new user forever.

    I've talked people into trying it, and they often have a bad experience or two and drop it. They move to a new computer and their contacts don't follow, and so they drop it. They have family on Macs, there's no client for them, and so they drop it. Once they've tried it and dropped it, I imagine it'll be twice as difficult to get them back.

    What's more, they now offer SkypeOut-- dialing to POTS lines. However, if you try to buy credits, you'll likely be told that your "financial institution declined the purchase." Only they didn't. They weren't asked. It's a flat out lie. Why is that necessary? What motivates something silly like that? It's like having a cash register on a desk in the front of your store, but insisting that you can't sell someone something because their money is couterfeit, when in fact, your cash register's not plugged in.

    And that, my friends, is a comment.

    Posted by: Ned Fedley at July 28, 2004 1:58 AM