As part of Microsoft’s Windows 11 software revamp, Microsoft is offering a revamped Skype consumer videoconferencing platform. This has been around for a long time as an all-round videoconferencing platform but its position has been usurped especially by Zoom.
But this has raised questions about where Skype should fit in as a videoconferencing platform. This is more so as most of us are primarily using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facetime or videocalling functionalities that are part of social-media or instant-messaging platforms for social videoconferences. Some computer journalists even say that Skype wouldn’t be missed if it disappeared from the videoconferencing marketplace.
What you need to remember about Skype is that, like the instant-messaging or social-media platforms, it was designed with a “consumer first” approach but acquired business features.
But there are some issues that need to be examined if Skype was “scratched out” of the scene altogether. This is primarily more to do with establishing a videoconference if you know who your participants are.
Here, Zoom and Teams need to allow users to create an easily-manageable “phone book” or “contact list” and start 1:1 videocalls from this list. As well, “virtual contacts” or “group contacts” that represent many users of the platform could be used as another way to represent a multiparty videoconference.
This approach could allow whoever is organising the videoconference to only invite or admit contacts that are members of the “virtual contact” list to that video meeting. This avoids the use of meeting-room numbers or meeting-room hyperlinks that when made public available make the meeting vulnerable to “Zoombombing”. As well, it can exist as a bulletin-board-type text-based chat while there isn’t a videoconference in progress.
As well, Zoom doesn’t really allow for “invisible” monitor-only participation which can be desirable in some social and business situations like interviews. Nor does it have the ability to optimise its screen real estate for different situations like portrait-oriented video for example.
In its favour, Zoom is courting a significant number of consumer set-top and smart-display platforms to support appliance-style videophone functionality. This has come about due to its popularity during the COVID-19 coronavirus plague as a way to keep in touch “over the wire”. Skype had a similar moment like this with smart-TV and set-top use cases but it didn’t catch on due to the requirement to purchase expensive Webcams from the smart-TV or set-top-device manufacturers.
But if there are attempts to effectively scratch out Skype as a videoconferencing platform, what needs to happen is for someone to step up to the plate and create or evolve such a platform that works equally well for consumer, small-business and enterprise use cases.