Skype integrates social media

Photo from Creative Commons.

Skype 5.0 was released last week. The new version of Skype boasts a better user interface simplified to make using it easier for casual users. The new version also mentions an upgrade to its video chatting service, giving users what they have been asking for: group video conferencing finally hitting Skype after years of it being promised with each update. The big surprise in the update was in addition to creating a new homepage in Skype itself, there was an additional tab to allow users to view their Facebook news feed directly within Skype.

The new video conferencing feature works extremely well, and setting up conferences is the same as setting up a normal conference call. The only difference is there is a button that switches that call into a video conference call. Video quality is about as good as it gets with the normal one-on-one video call service provided by Skype. The only downside to the video conference calls is that it is a limited-time free service, so after the next update, it will require Skype minutes to use the service with your friends. This is a shift in policy for Skype; normally anything done computer to computer is free. Hopefully this will be the only exception to that policy and users will not be spending money to do stuff that used to be a free service.

The new layout isn’t a huge change from the old one. The only difference is that a few of the menus have been moved and the conversations and friends panel have been streamlined. If users were using the beta version before the new release they won’t notice any change at all. Creating conference calls are a bit easier than before, but not much. There really isn’t much Skype can do to simplify the process beyond what it is.

The new Facebook news feed on the home window is a bit of a surprise. Rumors of Skype and Facebook working together on something have been circulating for some time, but none seemed to have a solid lead on what was going on behind the scenes. If the addition of the news feed was a last-minute thing, it certainly doesn’t look nor feel like it. It integrates well into the welcome screen, allowing users an ease of access to Facebook that wasn’t there before. That said, this new addition seems like a bit of a waste of time. I could see it being useful if users didn’t need to switch between Skype screens to see the feed, but they do, so it really isn’t that much different than having a browser window up with Facebook in it. In fact, it is probably better to have a browser window up, that way you get the full functionality of Facebook.

This most recent update to Skype has brought some interesting changes and perhaps a glance at how Skype may change in the future. It also shows just how deeply social media is becoming embedded in our lives, not allowing for a moment of clarity from something that has growingly consumed aspects of everyday life.