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WhatsApp exodus shines light on Microsoft’s mishandling of Skype

With the recent uptick in people wanting to move away from WhatsApp, you may have heard about several other chat platforms such as Telegram or Signal being viable alternatives for privacy-conscious people. Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, one such platform you didn’t hear about as a best alternative to WhatsApp is Skype, but why is that?

Skype used to be the premier chat service on the internet. At one point, it had accumulated over 330 million users in its heyday, but in 2021, it’s barely a footnote in the history of chat services. Skype still exists and is even built-in to Windows 10, which serves over one billion people every day. Unfortunately, Microsoft has done extraordinarily little to take advantage of Skype’s potential audience.

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The same conversation about Skype has been had regarding the pandemic. When the likes of Zoom, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams usage skyrocketed as more of us were stuck at home, Skype was left out in the cold. No one was using Skype to communicate with friends and family, even though Microsoft quickly added a neat feature that made it super easy to create video calls with friends.

From a privacy perspective, Skype chats and video calls and encrypted end-to-end means Microsoft cannot view the contents of your conversations. I think Skype has fallen off the wagon because Microsoft is preoccupied with pushing Microsoft Teams to everyone and anyone who will take it. Skype is an afterthought at this point, and it’s a real shame.

What doesn’t help is that the desktop application is terrible. Last year, Microsoft updated Skype from a UWP app to an Electron app, which killed all Windows 10 integrations and made it a total dog to run thanks to Electron’s terrible performance. I used to have Skype running in the background all the time when it was a UWP app, but now I have it set to close whenever I’m not using it because it takes up so much RAM.

This change came after several rebuilds of Skype on Windows 10 in the last five years. It feels like there’s no one leading the Skype team because the amount of client rebuilds Windows 10 has received is outrageous. Skype was originally split into two apps, then converged into one UWP app, which was later rebuilt as a React Native app, before being replaced with a terrible Win32 electron app.

On phones, Skype has been an unreliable mess for a while. I frequently never get notifications when people message me, which is beyond frustrating. And it’s not just me, because I’ll often message people on Skype and have it be days before they get back to me, always with the same response: “Sorry, Skype didn’t ping me about this.”

Skype could have been Microsoft’s iMessage if it handled the platform right, but it didn’t. Skype’s mismanagement and Windows 10’s rudderless leadership has led to Skype and Windows failing into irrelevancy in the eyes of consumers, and it’s a real shame. Luckily, with Windows 10, Microsoft is expected to bring back some wow to the platform later this year, but the same can’t be said for Skype.

The reality of the situation is that Microsoft is now pushing Teams as a replacement for Skype. Teams is based on the same tech as Skype, after all, and Microsoft is already seeing enormous success in the enterprise sector, with Teams usage essentially skyrocketing. Now, Microsoft needs to nail the consumer market with Teams, which it’s trying, but its Teams Consumer efforts have gotten off to a slow start.

What are your thoughts on Skype? Let us know in the comments.

This post was written by Zac Bowden and was first posted to WindowsCentral

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