Skype is a multiplatform software that enables users worldwide to communicate online via voice, video & IM.

It’s currently the biggest and, in my opinion, the most user-fiendly software of it’s kind “responsible for 8% of global international calling minutes, and with its users making 3.1 billion minutes of calls to landlines and mobiles in the third quarter of 2009“.

As a matter of fact, I don’t know why I haven’t written here about Skype yet. Aside from my browser, it is the only application I use every day and have been using it for more than four years now.

Here are some things I use Skype for – which, by no means, is the full list of the software’s features.

1. Skype-Skype calls with video conferencing – these are calls you make to other Skype users online – they are always free no matter how long you talk and if you and/or the person you are talking with have a camera attached to their computer, you can even see them live while you talk. With so many people having family abroad it’s an indispensable communication tool.

2. VOIP calls to land lines or cell phone numbers – these are calls you make to other people’s phones and they will cost you money (although way less than calling from your own land line or cell phone – that’s how Skype makes their money!). I have never dialed a friend or family member from a regular phone – calling with Skype costs me a fraction of a regular international call.

3. IM – texting with your contacts online is as easy as with any other application, especially if most of your family and friends are on Skype already. I have even used the IM/Skype-to-Skype call combination in a workplace setting communicating with team members all over the world – it worked perfect!

4. Sending files – sending small images or text files is perfect using Skype, because it is as easy as drag and drop, but don’t try to send video files or anything a bit heavier than 5-10MB – it will take a looong time 😛

5. Screen sharing – it’s one of the newest Skype features and one I find it really useful to run on-screen computer tutorials for my family

After you use Skype for a while, you also come to appreciate the little features like:
– renaming your contact’s names
– grouping your contacts
– bookmarking chats
– setting chat topics
– being able to have 150 people in one chat without getting lost
– sending SMS messages and others.

Alone, none of the features above is very special or extremely innovative now, but all of them combined in one well-designed multiplatform application is what makes Skype so unique.

If you have your friends and family scattered all over the world and all of them are fairly computer savvy (at least know how to launch an application and put their speakers, microphone and camera on) this is a perfect way to stay in touch wherever you are. Till this day Skype appointments are some of the most precious moments for my 90-year old grandma and I – even though we are 7,000 miles away from each other! Skype is also available on the go now, offering a number of mobile apps for some of the most popular smart phones.

If Skype is something you could see yourself using for more than just ever-once-in-a-while family and friends communication, they have subscription packets for companies, calling credits and some nifty gadgets for your calling convenience. They all costs money though.

For a full list of Skype features, go here.

Related Links:
Skype’s Website
Skype on Wikipedia