Gone Skyping

By | September 18, 2003

I got to try out Skype tonight on a random call with someone in Vermont. I was definitely impressed with the sound quality of the call. She said that either she or a friend had used Skype to talk to someone in Israel, and the sound quality was pretty good for that call, too.

I was using my Plantronics headset, which worked pretty well. I forgot to ask whether she was using a headset or a speaker and microphones. Obviously, this will not qualify as a rigorous assessment of the Skype P2P Telephony and Chat services.

The Good

  • No echo
  • Minimal latency (i.e., only a small hint of the “talking to an astronaut” feeling)
  • It just worked – no router changes, no firewall changes
  • Simple, easy to use UI
  • Nice integration between the chat interface and the voice interface

The Bad

  • High frequencies were greatly diminished (but the low frequencies were okay, so it wasn’t tinny)
  • Not really full duplex; kind of like a good, but not great, quality speakerphone
  • Very limited feature set

The limited feature set could arguably be called a good thing, at least for now. I haven’t even bothered to look for online help within the app. Everything I wanted to do was completely obvious. Skype, a.k.a, Skyper Limited, plans to add a lot more features like conferencing and they plan to integrate with the PSTN, SIP servers, and other chat services, like ICQ and AIM. It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off without overcomplicating the interface and the options dialog, which so far is mostly a bunch of checkboxes. The current set of options are also really more like preferences than configuration.

The first call I was received was from Janus Friis. Either this was the Skype co-founder, Janus Friis, or someone else who took his name as a username. I missed him this morning by an hour. Assuming it was really the co-founder, my guess is that he’s randomly calling people during the Skype beta period who have just signed up for Skype. That would be a smart thing, since there aren’t a huge number of people using it just yet. There are about 16,000 users online right now. It would have been cool to get a quick call so I could verify everything was working.

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