When Skype was sold in 2005 I effectively turned my back on them. More than most I’d put in hours working on my business and theirs. I was effectively an unpaid Skype evangelist before Skype blogs, before people even realized the power of blogs and social media. Social Networks hardly existed at the time. Helping to build a developer community was part of my vision and desire (which many others held and some from then still take part in). Part of the reason Skype reached a successful sale was they were working on a developer eco-system. It was part of a “Skype can power the world of communications” type idea.
Yet Skype never really opened up to developers. We know today it didn’t come to pass. Phil Wolff, Andy Abramson and Om Malik have all weighed in with slightly differing views on the demise of the “Skype Extras” program“. It’s effectively been dead for years. Extras included a certification program. Communications? Even developers only got the same public note this am. Today nobody in their right mind would develop for the SkypeAPI and hope to make money. It’s about trust not selling out!
For a parallel it is useful to think about the Apple store. Potentially the initial “extras” was an “App Store” before Apple invented the App store. In fact Skype had the “file sharing” distribution system too that had real potential. The early developers working on Skype were way ahead of their time. The vision they had for Skype was not the one of disappointment, missed opportunities, political infighting. Skype never enabled developers to bring their value into Skype.
Naked Skype anyone? For a parallel of what could have been – think TweetDeck (which I’d say is a potential Skype killer!). In fact a lot of the innovation around Twitter could have been done in Skype years ago. Then again Twitter faces similar issues.
So while we know that Skype missed the “context”, missed the “directory/network” play and is so late to the mobile party it isn’t funny… I wonder what next? Here’s some thoughts to just be provocative.
1. Skype loses the JoltID claim and turns to own solution. Moves more to SIP. Becomes copycat service doing the same thing everyone is doing. Developers of PBX etc. pay $’s to interconnect legacy systems. In 10 years they really aren’t relevant.
2. JoltID breathes sigh of relief. “Jolt” is launched – Skype the way you always wanted it. A secure P2P network is provided to developers. It works on mobile… smart mesh. The business model is location and context rather than minutes. Users provide their own callerID’s etc. It’s all browser based… Mobile Developers can put content in their own exchanges. Exchanges exist only between individuals.
3. Google says – thank you! Wait till they flip the switch!
The question I have.. and not for Skype rather it is for JoltID is Can I have the “Skype Engine” this time next year? Can I have some funding too… and I bet we can both create a developer community and a product that will eclipse Skype and Twitter before we hit the LTE inflection point.
While I’m being off the wall… Nokia invests in “Jolt” and unleashes a mesh network. Phones are upgraded with software distributed via the mesh…. via villagers walking around. People love their free calling! Kazaa and Skype founders… get the PR…. Mobile operators… ouch.. all over in 3 weeks…
Skype is just a big lost opportunity. As a developer and advocate my heart still hurts as it bleeds. While Skype appears to have more vision than it had it isn’t fast or agile today. The reality is… I don’t know one Skype developer that would put their money or invest in Skype today. That’s going to make it hard for the VC’s to flip this one again.