It seems that some major tech companies are being much more cooperative with law enforcement officials than they’d like to have us believe. The New York Times reports that Skype back in 2008 launched a secret program called Project Chess for the express purpose of making users’ Skype calls more “readily available” to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials. Knowledge of the program, which was launched years before Skype was purchased by Microsoft, was limited to around a dozen people within the company and the Times‘ sources say that “the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over legal issues.” The Times also notes that “Microsoft executives are no longer willing to affirm statements, made by Skype several years ago, that Skype calls could not be wiretapped.”
It’s no surprise that AIM and Yahoo Messenger are collapsing, with unique visitor counts declining by about 30-40% year on year, according to comScore. But it is fascinating that Skype (-12%) and Google Talk (-15%) are now losing ground now. There is no doubt that Facebook’s messaging system is one major factor in the desktop messaging decline. Yet it’s hard to avoid the notion that the rapidly multiplying messaging apps on smartphones are the biggest headache for Skype right now. More →
Here’s a good way for Microsoft to attract new users to its Outlook web mail platform that doesn’t involve convincing people that Gmail is too scary to use. Microsoft’s Skype blog announced this week that it has started rolling out a preview version of Outlook that will give users the ability to make Skype calls directly from their web browsers. The video demonstration that Microsoft has posted of Skype in Outlook shows that the integration is very smooth — when you click over someone’s email profile, you can now see voice and video calling icons that you can click to connect with someone over Skype. The preview version of Outlook is launching in the United Kingdom this week and will roll out in the United States over the next couple of weeks. Microsoft’s full video of Skype in Outlook is posted below. More →
Skype just announced proudly that its users spend 2 billion minutes a day on Skype calls. It’s a big achievement, for sure… but considering how long Skype has been around, it’s also somewhat underwhelming. According to company comments from 2011, the average video call length was 27 minutes. If we estimate that the average Skype call including both voice and video calling is closer to 20 minutes, the 2 billion minutes a day figure would translate roughly to 100 million calls per day. This sounds decent enough — except that a cluster of mobile messaging app companies that debuted just a couple of years ago have already moved far beyond that level. More →
WhatsApp has reigned as the undisputed messaging app champion across dozens of countries over the past two years. However, huge download volumes in all these countries doesn’t necessarily translate to high consumer engagement. A research firm called Mobidia has provided BGR with a fascinating comparison chart providing a direct engagement level comparison between WhatsApp and its major rivals in some of the biggest mobile markets. Mobidia chose a cut-off-point of 2 MB per month to make sure it is counting only consumers who truly use a messaging app actively. More →
The bad news for BlackBerry (BBRY) fans: The BlackBerry 10 Skype app is an Android port and not a native app. The good news: Skype has told CrackBerry that it is “closely collaborating with BlackBerry” to make sure that the ported app runs smoothly on the new platform. Among other things, Skype says it plans to “open up some of the integration points available to native apps in the OS so that they can also be used by the Skype application” and thus “allow Skype users to see notifications, to start the app from the Hub, and to see their Skype contacts in the native phone book.” Although BlackBerry’s first BlackBerry 10 device is reportedly off to a hot start so far in terms of sales, the company is still finding it hard to get some key apps natively onto its platform. CrackBerry’s Bla1ze, for one, comments that he’d “just rather see Skype go native” since “Skype isn’t hurting for any development money and creating a native BlackBerry 10 app isn’t hard.”
Microsoft (MSFT) isn’t taking any chances when it comes to reports that Skype users are having their accounts hijacked. Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has “temporarily suspended password-resetting capabilities for its Skype service” while it investigates reports that its users’ accounts are “vulnerable to account-takeover attacks that are trivial to carry out.” Microsoft’s Skype blog says that users who have multiple accounts linked to the same email address are vulnerable to hacking and that it is “reaching out to a small number of users who may have been impacted to assist as necessary.”
It’s not surprising that Microsoft (MSFT) plans to sunset Windows Live Messenger, especially now that it has the more superior Skype under its wing. According to The Verge, “Windows Live Messenger service will be retired in the coming months and integrated into Skype.” The tech blog believes an announcement could be made as early as this week. When BGR got a chance to go hands-on with the Skype for Windows 8 app and Windows Phone 8 app, we were told that ultimately Skype is the future. Even so, Microsoft reps said there’s still a huge market, particularly in Russia and Asia, where the MSN/Live brand is virtually synonymous with instant messaging. While Windows Live Messenger might be missed by those still clinging on to it, shifting to Skype will make the platform seamless on more products — smartphones, tablets and likely even future Xbox consoles. More →
Microsoft (MSFT) on Monday during its Windows Phone 8 press event in San Francisco announced a new version of Skype for its mobile operating system. The program is always running in the background to ensure that users will never miss an incoming call or message from a friend ever again. The application also allows users to message and video chat with contacts directly through the Windows Phone 8 Peoples hub. Joe Belfiore, the head of Microsoft’s Windows Phone team, revealed that unlike other apps that run in the background, Skype will not drain the smartphone’s battery. “We’ve built Skype so it integrates naturally into the phone experience… it’s always on, so it can receive a call and message at any time… without draining your battery,” said Belfiore. The Skype app is available now for Windows Phone 8 devices.
Microsoft (MSFT) shocked everyone when it announced it was buying Skype for $8.5 billion last year. Slowly but surely, we were expecting Skype to replace Microsoft’s own Live Messenger client as the default messenger and to be slapped it into every Windows Phone device and Xbox 360. While Microsoft’s stance is that Skype will remain in development for multiple platforms, it’s slowly becoming the company’s communication backbone. A Microsoft representative told BGR that about 80% of all instant messages sent over Skype are now sent over the company’s Messenger backend.
Numerous Skype users have posted complaints on the company’s Support Network about a bug that is sending messages to random users on their contact list. In some instances it was only a few messages, though others noted that whole conversations were being sent to the wrong person. “Thanks for your reports and sorry for the inconvenience caused by this,” a Skype employee responded. “We are currently investigating and hope to provide a solution for this soon.” A company spokesperson, speaking to Engadget, acknowledging that “in rare circumstances IM’s between two contacts could be sent to an unintended third contact.” The Microsoft-owned company revealed that a fix is in the works and will be available in the next few days.
UPDATE: The company confirmed the bug affected some versions of Skype for Windows, Mac, Linux and Windows Phone, and has begun rolling out an update to fix the problem. More →
New legislation has been passed in Ethiopia that could imprison an individual for up to 15 years for making a 30-second call over Skype or Google Talk. The legislation has made it illegal to use any Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services from within the country, Al Jazeera reported. Not only does the law prohibit the use of VoIP services, but it also enables the state-owned Ethio Teleco to prohibit the use of video chatting, social media, email and any other data transfer service capable of communicating information. The legislation has been labeled as necessary for the country’s national security and will reportedly close a loophole that was allowing some citizens to communicate without being monitored by authorities. More →