From the inventors of Kazaa comes a VoIP product that uses the same peer to peer technology that Kazaa introduced. Skype allows you to make phone calls which are routed through other users PC’s to complete the call. This eliminates the need for a dedicated server to route calls, making the service free.
The software installs effortlessly and sets up just as easily. I am currently running version 188.8.131.52, though there is an upgrade available. When you first set the software up, you must create a Skype name for yourself. When you create your Skype name, you can also assign an image that will appear on any users Skype window that has added you as a contact. Nice little feature that adds some personality to your contact list. Searching for contacts to add was relatively simple, but ideally you would get the Skype name from the user themselves. Once a contact is added, all you need to do is double click on a contact and the call is initiated (by deafult, configurable to start chat on a double click if you desire).
I have tried this software on a number of laptops and desktop PC’s, ranging from a 5 year old laptop to a top of the line gaming rig. The voice quality on all systems was excellent. I expected a discernible lag based on the nature of the peer to peer networking being used, but was surprised that I didn’t find any. The quality was just about as good as using a regular land line phone. A somewhat obvious caveat to those looking to use this software: all my tests were done using a cable broadband connection, I am sure that using any type of dial up would decrease the quality, most likely considerably. However, I didn’t find any problems using it with my laptop that is using wireless connectivity (802.11b) to my broadband connection.
The software also supports conference calling and instant messaging. I have found the instant messaging very handy, if the party I was calling did not I answer, I would send them a quick message. There are also three different Skype options:
Skype Out– Allows you to call land line numbers from Skype. This is charged on a per minute basis, you can purchase credits from Skype. Credits remain active for 180 days.
Skype In– Allows landline numbers to reach you at your Skype number. Website says that this option is in beta testing, but can be purchased for a fee, 3 months appearing to be the minimum. A Skype In subscription includes voicemail service as well.
Voice Mail– Adds Voicemail to your Skype account. Subscription service for fee, 3 months appearing to be the minimum.
I would highly recommend this software to anyone that is looking to use VoIP. Since the software is free, there is nothing to be lost by downloading it and giving it a try. Even if you use it only to call a small group of people long distance, the quality and convenience are excellent and the price matches my generally cheap nature. The software will definitely be one that I use on a regular basis. The only people that should be worried about Skype are the telephone companies.
Posted by Jeff