Already established as the Internetís most popular means of online voice communication (VoIP), free and low-cost telephony specialist Skype has this week begun public testing of its new Skype 4.0 update, which the provider hopes will inspire its audience to embrace the advantages associated with personal video calls.
While Skype currently accounts for more than 300 million users worldwide, the Luxembourg-based outfit wants to increase that market-leading figure by introducing a variety of service improvements and attractive new features via its 4.0 update.
One of those improvements is an integrated computer detection system that makes installation and setup all-the easier for the first-time technophobe user. The system aids the user during initial installation by automatically seeking out connection information related to available bandwidth and also audio and video devices already hooked up to the host computer.
Skype 4.0 also encourages new and existing users to switch out old thumbnail-sized profile window images in favour of much larger, bolder images that will be present during calls.
However, moving beyond merely allowing chat partners to get a clearer look each otherís faces (or whatever they choose for their profile picture), Skype is centring the update on pushing the effectiveness and appeal of video calls.
Speaking in a Reuters interview, Skype president Josh Silverman noted that Skype already offers many different modes of communication, including versatile voice chat and instant messaging, and sees the advancement of video calling as the way forward for bringing those modes together.
In explaining the 4.0 merits of video chatting, Silverman said that Skypeís new full-screen video resolution has now become effective enough for users to make direct eye contact while talking in real time. He also said Skype is prepared for any user backlash related to the shift away from the more classic small-screen video layout.
With video calls presently accounting for around 28 percent of Skypeís total service, which is a percentage boosted considerably since the emergence and popularity of online Web-camera-friendly sites such as YouTube, the free telephony provider now believes camera-equipped computers have become widespread enough to merit a more focused push of video call technology.
Founded in August of 2003 by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, Skype enables its users to make free computer-to-computer calls to any other Skype user on the planet. It also offers a low-cost SkypeIn and SkypeOut service, which enables computers to send and receive calls to mobile phones and landline connections.
Having created revenue equating to some $382 million USD during 2007, business analysts indicate that Skype is expected to hit around $500 million USD during 2008.
Video calling is not wholly new to Skype, having first been introduced onto the service in 2005 but without much of a fanfare reception. Those users now looking to put the public beta of Skype 4.0 through its video-call paces can do so by clicking right HERE.