Making Skype More Profitable and Ultimately Better

SkypeThere have been a few articles floating around talking about the fact that eBay is considering selling Skype. Although the talk is mostly related to new Skype CEO John Donahoe referring to “synergy” and weather or not the two business are complimentary. I think this might be cover for “profit”. The acquisition of Skype by eBay was a curve ball in most commentators eyes and there is no doubt that it has likely had a negative impact on Skype’s revenue and image.

That discussion made me think about what is it about Skype that is stopping it from being a giant (a bigger one). Number one in my book is the fact that most users don’t pay for any calls they make. They use it as a communication tool while online. They take advantage of Skype’s free calling, which is great. But there is no profit to be made from free. This is despite the fact that paid calls are cheap and deals like “Skype Pro” were top value for money. Indeed the new “flat rate unlimited calling” is also feature rich and again cheap. So if the majority of users are not taking them up on these great offers what can they do?

Charge for the use of Skype. That’s right charge for it, make Skype a subscription service on a per year basis. Before you go screaming your butt off hear me out. If you are screaming you must use and value Skype, I hear you. Skype is one application that I could not live without.

One of the strengths of Skype is the user base, it is massive. Used by an estimated 30% of all internet users and accounting for 95% of all VoIP traffic. Watching the total users online I see a constant + 10 million. There are questions about “active” users on Skype, given that total registered users is reportedly over 100 million but that is what I see on a regular basis so lets use that in our math.

With this huge user base Skype is in a great position to use that market share and economy of scale to charge a minimal subscription fee and make a very large profit. Consider this:

Skype have 10 million active users. Charge $10 per year for the use of Skype free calling PC to PC, therefore outside of SkypeOut. Given the fact that some people won’t pay this and ditch Skype lets be conservative and say that they lose 50% of current users. Now we have 5 million users paying 10 dollars a year. That is 50 million dollars a year! That is profit that they just don’t have coming in right now that could make Skype a whole lot better. Skype’s revenue is currently running around 500 million, subscriptions then would account for 10% of total revenue, that is a lot for any business.

I don’t think that they would lose 50% and I think that it will benefit users and Skype. I would pay 10 bucks a year. I might consider paying more. Why? I think that it is that good and I don’t have a problem paying for a quality service. I have used a number of VoIP services and none compare to the quality that I get from Skype, especially for recording. Generally speaking Skype is constantly reliable and stable, making it easy to use and dependable. Ten dollars a year is a very nominal fee for a great service.

In addition if I knew that the addition of a fee might make for a better Skype and encourage more development, great. They could even concentrate on working on some of my gripes:

  • No record feature native to the software
  • Bloatware like Skype Extras
  • Creating a stripped down version for optimizing call quality

I know that many people will disagree with me and strongly. I may even get flammed for putting ideas in their head. But quite frankly I don’t want to loose Skype. I sure as hell don’t want to lose it to the likes of Microsoft or some other web company that will pollute it with rubbish… “Yahoo! toolbar will be installed with Skype” (in fine print at the bottom of the EULA). Skype should concentrate on being a VoIP service, not a games platform, not aan application client, not anything else.

I will say though that subscriptions without value adding to the application and development of more bloatware would be a disaster. But the opposite would make for Skype to develop and maintain a platform for which there is no equal. As long as they add that record button.

Would you pay 10 bucks for a killer app?

Stupid Idea, Has a Life of Seconds

Found out today that there is a new company called The Pudding in private beta. Nothing new there. They are offering free PC based calls. I can only presume that this implies PC to landline calls. Great, excellent. But we all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But sure we can put up with the odd advert or pop-up if the product is worth it. But the product better be good. In this instance I don’t think any product would be good enough.

The price of the free calls is that you agree to let the company listen into your conversations and then deliver contextual advertising based on what you are talking about. What the heck are they thinking? This has got to be the worst business model I think I have ever heard.

In this era where people are as paranoid as ever about issues such as privacy and identity and all that goes with it, a company has decided to “bet” that people are going to be willing to give all that up for what? Free phone calls! Stupid idea. It just is not going to happen. That opinion comes without even exploring the idea of advertising which quite frankly I could do without and would rather pay for a service that comes ad free. But that is me.

Stupid name stupid idea, and that is going straight into the broken egg pile here at the chicken coop.

The Pudding Screenshot

Via: Silicon Alley Insider

Top Blogs on WordPress

WordPress LogoMany things attracted me to WordPress. Many things I discovered when I got here have kept me here. One of the things I discovered when I got here was the “Top WordPress.com Blogs of Today” that is displayed on the dashboard. It gave everyone the chance to be “featured”. I feel this is now a thing of the past.

The top blogs of the day feature is great and it used to be better. It used to be that anyone with a blog hosted on WordPress had the chance of being featured right there on the “homepage” when you logged into WordPress. I was excited about the fact that anyone could end up there and you did not have to be an “A-List” blogger. I am interested in what people have to say, especially that which is well written or of note. Now the list of the top four blogs on WordPress.com are usually VIP Blogs that are popular because of who they are.

[Note: Non WordPress.com readers can see the top blogs for today on WordPress here.]

Scoble and his blog Scobleizer has been hosted on WordPress for some time. WhenTop Blogs on WordPress Screenshot I joined it was always on the top, everyday. It doesn’t matter what he wrote it was on top. But, every now and then one of us not so well known bloggers piped Scoble off the top dog spot. These were the posts that really got me interested, mainly because it was because the content was worth looking at. It got my attention. So what has changed?

In late September WordPress started to off a new service for VIP bloggers. For $500 setup and $250 per month the WordPress team will set up a blog, maintain it and you get some nice VIP features. You become a VIP blog on WordPress. This is attractive for companies and “A-List bloggers” that make their income from blogging. They need a reliable service, with WordPress they get that. WordPress is a great service and offers great reliability and stability along with expertise that keep everything going and always rolling out new features. It can also handle the bandwidth required if a post ends up on Digg or Slashdot. So how does that affect me?

Now that we have VIP bloggers on WordPress like Anousheh Ansari’s “Space Blog”, Om Malik’s Web Worker Daily and more recently the Official Linden Blog, they are the Second Life people, they are always featured on the top blogs of the day. The sheer popularity and reach of these players now make the possibility of anything that I write have zero possibility of getting on the top blogs list.

I do not resent the fact that WordPress is inviting VIP’s to blog on WordPress, it makes very good business sense and I appreciate that it gives them exposure and respect within the blogosphere. But I don’t want to see a top blog list of bloggers that I could go to Techmeme and see! I want to see the “average Joe” have the opportunity to be listed as a “Top Blog”. I could not care if I never got on the list again, but I would like to think that there was always the opportunity that I could be. At this present time I have zero to none chances of making the cut. In addition this list should be dynamic and change all the time. At the moment it is like “Ground Hog Day”! Same blogs there day after day with no change, or very little. So what do I think should be done?

I think that the answer might be for the great guys at WordPress to make another list on the dashboard. Sure keep the “Top WordPress.com Blogs of today”, make that for everyone, who knows we might be able to get the traffic required to get on the list with the “A-listers”. Have another list that is formulated by taking out the “A-List” blog factor. That is; a list for the rest of us. At least then it would feel fair and not impossible to be a “Top WordPress.com Blog”.

How do other WordPress.com users feel about this idea? Is it something that you think you would appreciate? If so let the WordPress guys know and maybe we will see it. I do not think that it would be that hard to do. So how about it?

StumbleUpon Secure? It Could Be

StumbleUpon LogoI like StumbleUpon, I think the concept is great and the idea of guided, accidental discovery is a worthwhile journey each time. But I am considering uninstalling it. The reason is: the thing that makes it great I don’t like because of where I might end up. It makes me a nervous wreck!

While this great extension for Firefox and now Internet Explorer is fun and is actually useful. I don’t like the fact that you can end up anywhere and be potentially infected with spy-ware, viruses and other nasties. The only sites and content that are addressed as far as I can tell from both the StumbleUpon Homepage and the Unofficial StumbleUpon FAQ are those of spam and adult content. Although on the Privacy page there is this statement:

“The sites that StumbleUpon recommends are entirely out of our control. As such, StumbleUpon takes no responsibility for them, or their content. These other sites may send their own cookies to users, collect data, or solicit personal information.”

[added emphasis]

There is also this warning in the Terms and Conditions:

“…nor may you use StumbleUpon Toolbar and Website in any manner that could interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of StumbleUpon’s recommendation services.”

This is a rather ambiguous statement but might cover the malicious user that might recommend a tainted website, or an ignorant, unaware user that does so unknowingly.

Spam can be reported and I assume is addressed by the admins. Adult content can be filtered out by the users’ personal account settings. In my opinion this does not go far enough. In addition I am sure that the terms of use disclaim any responsibility by the publisher of the software. This is not a criticism rather what I would expect. I am not a lawyer and I am not going to attempt to interpret the user agreement or the terms of use.

What about security in general as well as adult content? I don’t want to be taken to a website that has viruses, worms, spy-ware, ad-ware, cross-scripting vulnerabilities, or any thing else that might cause a disaster on my system. People should know that you no longer need to actually download and run a program that is infected with a virus to get one. Visiting the wrong web-page can cause problems, big ones! That is to say nothing of spy-ware which in my opinion is no different to a virus. I found this out the hard way earlier this year when my home PC was infected with a zero-day virus and I lost everything. The damn thing even wrote itself to the boot sector, very nasty. There is no mention of just how StumbleUpon handles this type of threat, or if in fact users of the extension are at risk at all. I certainly hope that it is not out of ignorance or failing to disclose the threat. As I see it now, it is a very real one.

Perhaps my paranoia is seeded in my virus experience earlier in the year. However a greater reason for it is my use of the McAfee Site Advisor extension. I rely heavily on this extension to let me know if where I am and where I am going is safe and that the files and content on the site is safe. If it is not a green site I don’t go there, period. Sure, I also use a good dose of common sense as well but the safe site extension is excellent peace of mind and so far has not let me down at all. I see it as an essential part of “safe-surfing” for any user. I don’t go to sites that I think have high risk content (regardless of the site advisor status), such as warez sites. It is not a risk I am willing to take and it is a pain in the arse building the PC again!

So I had a thought, why not make it an integrated option in the StumbleUpon Extension? For those users of StumbleUpon that also use Site Advisor; have an option for StumbleUpon to only take you to identified green sites. Theoretically this would be possible and Firefox is a relatively easy platform to modify in this regard due to it’s open source nature. I am sure it is a bigger ask for Internet Explorer. But that said I think it is a good idea. It sure would make me feel a lot better about using the application. Plus if adult content can be filtered then so can sites that are not green in Site Advisor.

Spyware free ToolbarIf that would not be possible I would like to know how StumbleUpon handle the security issue and what measures they have in place to protect users. Should they make a website that is a risk to users available as a “stumble” then potentially they could have a legal issue on their hands as they may be accused of delivering viruses or spy-ware to their user base. Albeit unintentionally, it would still be an interesting test of the terms of use. The screen-shot shown may also be regarded as miss-leading if this were or has happen. In all honesty though I am sure this refers to the extension and toolbar itself not where you are taken by it.

If the idea of the extension being incorporated into the Site Advisor extension it would make me a far more willing user and I would feel better using it knowing that I was safe to do so. As far as uninstalling it I am still undecided.

Web Cam Sets You Ablaze!

On Fire WebCam 001If you have a web cam you have to try this. I was reading the RSS today and I never had any idea people were doing this sort of thing, or why…

But it is cool that people are doing this because so far this evening I have set my hand on fire, my whole body and the cat and nobody got hurt.

Grant Skinner has written a Flash 8 demo that interfaces with your web-cam to give special effects based on movement. Anything that moves looks like it is on fire. My web-cam lighting is not that good in the screen shots mainly because it is night time. But it gives you the general idea.On Fire WebCam 002

It has no purpose other than being plain fun and cool. There is also another demo based on movement that makes it look like you are being snowed on, but for that one you need to sit still for a few minutes to get the effect. Still cool fun though.

But remember you need a web-cam and I can think of no better reason not to go out and get one! Anyway they are getting pretty inexpensive now, so you don't have an excuse. Remember to have fun and not to really set the cat or yourself on fire.

On Fire WebCam 003But you can pretend…Brawh haw haw haw…

Grant Skinner's Blog

Skype 2.5 Installed: I am Over my Hissy Fit

Skype2.5Well I was a "tad" peeved off that this release of Skype did not include a record function and I had decided that I wasn't downloading it until I got over that. But after some encouragement from Sebastian I decided to install it.

I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. The "new" Skype is not all that new, rather more functional. The install is all the same and that had no problems. The first really noticeable thing was that the audio quality is better and there is greater emphasis on that with the inclusion of a "quality monitor". Not sure how that works as I do not have that many issues related to audio quality because I have a pretty quick connection. The problems that do occur are usually related to lag or resources pressure on the other person or person's local machine. And that I am afraid is unavoidable.

I said that I did not think I would use the SMS function. But I have actually found myself using it a lot. Like today I have come online, I got a message that someone wanted to talk to me, they are online but not answering. So I have SMS'ed him and now he knows I am here: he is yet to turn up though. But I think that it is cool that I can do that. The reason that I hate SMS is the fact that it is a pain in the butt when I am used to a keyboard. Having the ability to SMS from Skype actually makes SMS more accessible to me. By the way any reply that is sent to an SMS that I send from Skype goes to my personal mobile, the recipient is none the wiser about where the SMS was sent from. Seamless; an in usual Skype fashion; "It just works".

By the way the cost of an SMS in Australia via Skype is 0.12 AUD and to send an SMS to the UK is 0.13 AUD. I was told today by a colleague that the cost to the UK is normally 0.35 AUD. Definatly a saving there.

I am yet to try the mass call function which can apparently support up to 100 people. I am also yet to investigate Skypecasts, not sure what that's all about but I think it has something to do with this new feature. The thing that bothers me a bit is the fact that when you want to join a Skypecast it says that it says Skype is making a SkypeOut call. Apparently, at this point in time they are not charging you for this service as reported by Andy Bramson. Andy also reports as to the origin of the SkypeOut call, interesting stuff. But I suppose that means they will have that option in the future, we will see what happens. Skypecasts are, as far as I can tell are community chats and conferencing. The scope of this is massive. Imaging a Podcast with 20 others listening, contributing and live! Awesome. Aparently there is a "virtual" microphone that can be handed out by the moderator. I am going to have to explore this as it looks exciting.

Topping up your Skype credit is much easier with 2.5. Which as I have said before is in the interest of Skype. That said it is much easier and it is secure.

There are some other minor additions like the fact that the modern ring-tone has changed yet again to something yet more nauseating! But they have included the "classic" ring-tone that we all love. That is my take on Skype 2.5.
Maybe in the final release they will just drop a record button in there…

POPURLS dot com: What a Great Site

POPURLS BannerI was cruising the RSS today and although I had heard of POPURLS in passing I had not visited it until today. I was pleasantly surprised.

This site is a sort of a aggregator for sites that are updated frequently or have RSS feeds associated with them, or some other kind of community contribution on a regular basis. POPURLS summarizes this data into a “all-in-a-view” style. I don’t think that it is everything that comes out of these sites but it is a nice summary. The site has a very nice single page design and you can swap the default white on black to black on white. You can also make the text larger for those of you who are blind. The other cool option is that you can expand the headings to include more feeds or data. Lastly you can hover over a title of an article you get a summary of the article, click on it and a new tab opens with the full text from the site, cool.

POPURLS covers a huge range of sites: digg.com, del.icio.us, furl.net, flickr, reddit.com, tailrank.com, fark.com, youtube.com, news.google.com, news.yahoo.com, newsvine.com, video.google.com, shoutwire.com, slashdot.org, wired.com, odeo.com, nowpuplic.com, metafilter.com.

You will notice that not all the “feeds” are text based. There are video feeds as well and that’s something that average newsreaders don’t do. I think that is a nice addition, so is the fact that there are Flickr photo’s as well. I am not sure what the relationship between POPURLS and the contributing sites is but it makes you wonder how others might get on the list. Just something to think about.

That aside I think this is a great idea and one that finally puts RSS feeds into the hands of “regular” users. While it does not unleash the true power of RSS and aggregation it is a taste and might spark some interest for some people, it also connects you with the information that may enable you to better utilize RSS fully. In addition to these points, even if you were a super geek; it is just a fun site and a great way to have a quick catch up with what is going on in cyberspace and beyond, a cool distraction from whatever it is you are meant to be doing. Have a look you will end up staying a while.