Forget the app; Microsoft rolls out Skype for Web

Microsoft is launching a beta of Skype for the Web, allowing browser-based video chats that don't require a separate app.

Microsoft announced today that it's launching a beta of Skype for the Web, allowing browser-based video chats that don't require a separate app.

"We've made Skype available on computers, mobile phones, TVs and even games consoles," wrote Jonathan Watson, Skype product marketing manager for Microsoft, in a blog post. "Expanding to different platforms has helped us grow to over 2 billion daily minutes (that's over 33 million hours) of voice and video calls.... Now, not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser."

Skype for Web, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, will be available via Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox or Safari.

"If you already use Skype, go to Skype.com and sign in to see all your contacts and latest conversation history," wrote Watson. "We're making Skype for Web available to small number of existing and new users to begin with, and gradually rolling out worldwide in the coming months -- look out for an invite when you sign in to your Skype account on Skype.com."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said this is a good move for Microsoft because it opens Skype up to more users in more places.

"The requirement to have a client means one might not always be able to use Skype," he said. "For example, if I'm on a shared computer, say in an airport, I can't use Skype.... Maybe I can't get on the airport Wi-Fi, but there's a public Internet terminal or I might want to use a friend's computer. But with Skype Web, now I can. So now Skype can be pervasive across all devices, not just ones that I happen to own."

However, Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said this is a better move for Microsoft than for Skype users. By enabling people to access Skype on Web browsers, there's less pressure on Microsoft to quickly keep various apps updated.

Skype, for instance, has to maintain apps for Apple's iOS platform -- both on tablets and smartphones. There are also apps for Windows XP, touch Windows 8, Windows 7, Xbox and Android phones and tablets.

"You have no idea how many implementations of Skype apps are out there," said Moorhead. "You're maintaining the code and you're constantly having to make changes and invest dollars into making the experiences good and consistent between so many platforms. Instead, you could put your development dollars into making it run really, really well in a browser, with just minor changes for the different browsers."

He added that Microsoft has worked hard on all of Skype's different apps, but they still vary slightly between environments.

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