Goodies, Forum and Friends add to Skype Story.

October 1, 2003

in Accelerating Innovation

It’s special when you find yourself observing a small team really hustling to make something new happen. Often there’s not much time. The decisions come quickly, past experience plays a role. The real successes come when the team reaches for higher levels of customer experience keeping key brand values in mind — even when they aren’t formalised and still emerging. The Skype team is quickly learning (or understands) that they are redefining communications. Their challenge will be to “embrace” the “talking community”, not just the technology. They have a unique opportunity. I don’t know one major telecom company that talks “phoning”, they talk regulations, price plans, coverage, and have forgotten the pleasure of just using the phone. In this Skype starts with an inherent brand advantage making accessible the idea of using the phone in ways we have never comprehended it before. Concurrently, “chat” never provided the pleasure that a new “voice” call could provide.

Why this potential? Skype is quickly gaining mindshare for providing some the of the best first initial conversations amongst bloggers. Cost prohibits most from starting them with a regular phone. It’s also holding up pretty well as a beta. I added China to my country calls today and gained learnings I otherwise would not have had. We used to blog for comments. Quite possibly we will soon blog for calls. Frankly it is much more engaging.

For Skype blogs are playing an unexpected role and I’ve found myself engaged and enjoying this process. What’s different. Well I’m willing to bet that Skype is the first company to get near 1million downloads in a month with visible blogging support well in advance of all major newspapers. While working in their favor they are learning far more rapidly than any traditional “market research” program for finding and understanding users and their experiences. In the beginning they could talk to everyone. It was their friends and their friends friends. A typical beta product. Serious Play. Prototype to success. Except it only lasted 3 or 4 days before they had 5000 and then 10000 online regularly. By the end of the week we will see 1 million downloads and at least 100K people (probably more – just guessing) using Skype daily.

So I was please to find today that Skype has launched a Forum. It’s positive, an excellent way to continue the dialogue acceleration with users. I expect it won’t be too long before they think though how they can become the first “blog Brand success”. In a way this began early. Bloggers putting Skype buttons on their sites. They’ve also been adding “Goodies” with Skype Me! buttons and further instructions. That’s a good sign. They are adapting quickly. I still want them to provide a least a blog a day on the home page, early adopters want information, more stats, simple announcements. We added a forum today, provided a new release etc. Tell us something about your lists, your people, policies you are wrestling with. There will also be good stories and great suggestions.

That may also be a dilemma and provide an an interesting transition for the Kazaa founders. Persecuted by the RIAA from the beginning with Kazaa – it was almost an underground movement that grew much faster than they probably expected. Tainted with spyware associations they are now involved in something very different and even more challenging. In their shoes I might be reticent to follow a madman who promotes they go blogging. However, their message —- including joy of communicating really has to be public and transparent. It’s not about multiple identities, or file sharing, it’s about connecting, communicating and relationships. They are real stories. The stories that Skype is enabling need to be told. The way to do it, is to let Skypers tell them and new users see them. From here on out 99% of new users won’t be bloggers. Concurrently you are competing against some of the largest consumer ad budgets in the world. Skype must not only work virally (seems to) but must be infectious.

Before my rave above I took a quick journey though the “stories”, “support”, and “suggestions” in the new forum. It reinforced to me how easy it must remain to get Skyping. Here’s an example of the positive vibes. :: View topic – Great work! Here is some suggestions!

Some features to be added:
* Multiple connections of calls (able to talk to more people than one)
* Answering machine! (Able to give a short message to you’re skype if you’re not answering)
* An “expert mode” to change sound quality, how much bandwidth it can use, and which soundcard it should use as output (NOT PRIMARY FFS )

To compete with messenger you should add these features:
* Text chat window with a new kind of “richedit” so it changes a smiley to a Link links, etc
* Sending files to eachother
* A drawing board, so it is possible to draw what you’re talking about.

If all these features are installed to Skype this will take over the messenger “marked” if there is one. I would definitly uninstall trillian, messenger, yahoo, aol and all the other lamers, you guys ROCK!

I tend to agree. However I wouldn’t get overconfident. I could write both Microsoft scenarios and one’s for emergent competitors that still have the potential to blow Skype out before it gets too big. However they better be quick. If one needs an illustration you only have to look at all the “social networks”. After trying 2 or 3 you get burned out and as we’ve seen it is difficult to “enhance” the messenger business. It may soon be difficult to better the “skype” business. Others tried to follow eBay into auctions and failed. It will require more than just “one-click” calling to catch them. Becomes even more difficult if we like both the people and the community behind it.

Here is just one example of the creativity already flooding into Skype. Portability in a way I hadn’t thought of before. :: View topic – USB key(ondisk) installable

I’m travelling for the next 3 weeks, visiting friends and whatnot. I have a usb key (64mb memory) and a usb headset. It would be great (possibly this already can be done) to install Skype to the key, and not to my friends machines. That way my personal info is stored on the key.

There’s a TV program I really hate. It’s called “Friends”. It may just be part of the message that can close the brand story tonight. Keep making the Skype site more approachable. Like “Friends” the TV show (before it got long in the tooth and please not assoicated with one personality) it is hip and youthful, about a group, growing together…. I’m a little wary of a “Friends” directory, (sign-up) and yet there are many “friends” of causes. There might just be a more powerful movement in there to be set up semi-autonomously. Plus this time users have both more $ in play and are more likely to understand the impact this shift to “local world” calling on the globe. Anyone want to flesh out what a “Friends of Skype” could do?

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