Videophone Via Skype

October 9, 2008 – 1:39 am

by Michael Karl Witzel ©2008

Remember the telephone company slogan that was popular a few decades ago, the one that touted how long distance was “the next best thing to being there?” Well, there is a new service available on the Internet today that finally makes good on that claim, adding video to the equation. It’s called “Skype,” an online telecommunications company that allows you to place and receive telephone calls using your computer, at unheard of rates.

Skype was created by entrepreneurs Niklas Zennström, Janus Friis, and a team of software developers based in Tallinn, Estonia. The Skype Group has its headquarters in Luxembourg, with offices in London, Tallinn, Tartu, Stockholm, Prague, and San Jose. Skype has experienced rapid growth in popular usage since the launch of its services and was acquired by eBay in September 2005 for $2.6 billion.

The unique business model is based on voice over IP (VoIP) telephony. In layman’s terms, it’s voice information that is transmitted over the “Internet Protocol” used by today’s web, allowing someone with the right equipment and software to make telephone calls using the Internet.

Instead of using wires or cell phone towers, the digital voice information is carried in real time over the interlinked computers and servers connected to the Internet, made practical by the lightning fast upload and download speeds that are now supported by today’s cable, DSL, and fiber optic service providers.

Getting connected with Skype is easy. Simply navigate to their site, choose a user name, and setup an account. A big bonus to the service is that all the people who are registered in the Skype network can make “Skype-to-Skype” calls for free.

At the same time, you can purchase credits that can be used to make “SkypeOut” calls to ordinary phones or to people who are not registered with Skype. What’s the advantage? Outrageously low rates that allow you to call nationwide, coast-to-coast and all over the globe for mere pennies per minute. Check out the rate page on the Skype site and make the comparison to what you are currently paying for long-distance telephone service.

Remember how Ma Bell predicted that someday we would all have videophones? Well, they never delivered on their promise, but Skype did. Using the built in cameras and microphones found in today’s modern computers, the service allows you to make and receive calls and SEE the person you’re chatting with. If your laptop or desktop doesn’t have a camera or microphone, you can purchase one that hooks up via the USB or Firewire port and get setup quickly.

Once connected, you have complete control over who can call or see you online, so there’s no threat of spam or sales calls. You search for your friends user names by way of the Skype interface and then request to add them to your contacts list. When you make the initial call, a message appears on the other person’s computer asking if they want to allow you to connect with them and add them as a contact. Once you build up a list of friends, you will wonder how you ever got by with just voice-to-voice calls!

When you see your friend or loved on on the other end of the connection in real time, you really do “connect” with them. The experience takes you far above the level of the usual telephone call and immediately makes your conversation personal and intimate. You literally feel like you are sitting down with the party on the other end and that they are with you, right there—in the room.

Skype video calling is the perfect solution for people who are working long hours away from home or for the spouse that travels for business. Kids can see their grandparents and parents their children, even if they happen to be on the other side of the world. The whole family can squeeze into the picture and join in if they like, turning the call into a real life “party line.”

But whether you use the service for person-to-person calls or family-to-family gatherings, you will no doubt come away with a new appreciation for technology, the Internet, and the plain and simple fact that making video calls via Skype truly is “the next best thing to being there.”

Getting Started With Skype

  1. 2 Responses to “Videophone Via Skype”

  2. I have Texas Wireless for my Internet service provider and got the Skype setup going just recently. It works great, but I’m not sure how well it would do if you have satellite service …

    By R.C. on Oct 10, 2008

  3. If anyone needs help or advice getting Skype setup on their computer, feel free to drop me a note using the contact form on this site. I will do what I can to get you up and running!

    By admin on Oct 10, 2008

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