Peak Users Online = Growth?

In the graph below i compared and superposed the shapes of the curve of users online of May 15, 2005 and January 17, 2007. Let’s discuss these graphs and the changes in their shapes …

The strange and brutal “dip” just before 16h GMT on January 15, 2007 is some kind of flaw in the counting system of concurrent users online, and has happened several times in the past. Several people noticed it for the first time the day we reached 7 million concurrent users online (see my post "frozen Skype Cloud" on August 29, 2006). Until now, no “official” explanation from the side of Skype*. But it is an erratic phenomenon, because it doesn’t happen every day, although it happens always when a new record of concurrent users online is reached. So let’s discard this phenomenon.

In the “old” pattern of 2005 there are 3 distinctive phenomenons:
  • Around 12 GMT there is a dip in the concurrent users online (green curve). The last months this has almost completely faded away (red curve). This could be explained by the strong growth of the American users.
  • Peak time was always occurring around 16h GMT. Now, it happens at any moment in the time span 15h to 20h GMT, moments were both Europeans and Americans are using their computers. In the past, Europe was the strongest Skype user continent. Perhaps now it are the Americas?
  • The “night dip” was in the past around 02h GMT. Now this dip seems to have risen (proportionally), what again could be an indication that more Americans are still awake and using Skype before that moment.
So what? Is Peak Time Concurrent Users the right way to measure the success of Skype? No, certainly not, but it is the easiest number AND to measure AND to understand!

A better measure would be to calculate the surface below the curve of concurrent users online (see the blue surface in the image on the left). This surface has as unit “users x time” and gives a better indication of the number of users AND the time they stay online.

Therefore i also colored in blue the “gains of relative surface” between the two curves of the first graph. This shows where the Growth of Skype Users is taking place:
  • Or indeed American growth
  • Or people stay longer online
  • Or … both
If it is American growth, and if this growth continues, we should see the peak of concurrent users online shift to the right side in the graph in the next months. This will be enough proof for me that Hudson Barton was 100% right, unless Skype explains it officially in the meantime.

* there was however yesterday a strange comment of Jaanus Kase on the official Skype Blog, that seems to confirm there is indeed a bug in the counting system! His words after commenting the 9 million concurrent users online milestone: "Next up: double digits in the millions department. I wonder if our testers have actually tested that it will display fine, or will it crash and burn as soon as it hits the tenth million…"


9 Million, hurrah!

We just reached 9 million concurrent users online.
I missed it, somebody was faster than i was, see the official Skype Blog here!

I contributed my way to reaching this by running 4 different accounts on 2 computers, i watched the RSS feed from Skype, and also the graph of the http://nyanyan.to/ website. And I was luckily home to witness it!
The table below shows the previous “million” days since Skype launched officially its software.
84 days between 8 million and 9 million isn’t that bad, but still disappointing in view of the 66 days between 5 and 6 million. Is it the end of the exponential growth? Let’s wait till April 1st! If we haven’t reached 10 million on that date, i will be really disappointed.

But there is light in the darkness: Hudson Barton firmly believes “peak concurrent users online” isn’t a good number for measuring the popularity of Skype, and he could be right, I will probably explain tomorrow why i “perhaps” agree with him.


Luis is pissed off!

I didn’t know the blog of Luis Benavides, but he really is pissed off:
Read here his comment on the undisruptive price policy of Skype!

Luis posted his whole comment also on the Skype blog here.

My friend Ike Roelfsema, a Skype forum Moderator, and the first woman who became a Skype Super User also complains here!!!

I guess most SkypeOut users wont make the calculation and will “think” the future release of SkypePro will make their calls cheaper. It often will NOT be cheaper, see my previous post here.


Hudson Barton’s blog

He has published some interesting updates since he started his blog! His last topics are:
  • Skype Security Bulletin
  • Secondary Logins and Password Theft
  • Skype usage update
Secondary logins is also one of the things that Jan in Malaysia is complaining a lot about, and I agree with them. Skype should at least leave you the possibility to disable/enable this!

Concerning the usage of Skype, he is in my opinion very optimistic about the growth of Skype. I am much less optimistic. More on this in the next weeks!

His graph is quite interesting, but why does his graph rise above 9 million, we never reached this until now? (Edited: he commented below that this graph is predictive a month from now!).


SkypePro, hmmm ???

Yesterday i presented the bad side of the new pricing strategy of Skype. Please don’t forget that I am located outside the USA or the UK, countries for which there are other pricing strategies!

Now the good news.

Skype stays free and calls from Skype to Skype also. So depending on your needs Skype can still be completely free, with video feature included!

But soon, for people who use SkypeOut, there will be Skype Pro!

What will it cost and provide:
  • A subscription fee of €2 per month
  • A connection fee of €0.039 for all SkypeOut calls
  • €0 per minute for calls to national landlines
  • Free Skype Voicemail.
  • €30 off a SkypeIn number (I don’t understand this, as a SkypeIn number costs now 30 € for one year!).
  • And some other discounts or free “unprofessional gadgets”
I therefore looked at my personal consumption of SkypeOut minutes of the last months, and indeed i could sometimes save money. Of course, in my simulation, i supposed that:
  • all landline calls to foreign countries should be paid
  • all calls to mobiles should be paid
  • all calls to landlines from Belgium are free (i live in Belgium)
  • for every above mentioned call i counted a connection fee
  • all SMS's should be paid
These are the numbers, based on December 2006:
  • Price increase if i don’t switch to Skype Pro: +62%
  • Price discount if i switch to Skype Pro: -33%
Based on May 2006 till January 18, 2007:
  • Price increase if i don’t switch to Skype Pro: +35%
  • Price increase if i switch to Skype Pro: +6%
I guess Skype made its homework, and that occasional SkypeOut users will pay for the heavy SkypeOut users, and that anyhow Skype will generate more revenue. But, we get free Skype Voicemail included in the price (and this is of course not a free lunch)!

Is Skype now copying the traditional telephone companies and their outdated market strategy? Asking a fixed fee, even if you don’t use the service? OK, I know, we still can choose between SkypePro and the “old way” + connection fee! But, for how long?

I really am astounded, and not in a positive way!

You want the raw rounded numbers: i did call for about €28 from May to now; this would cost me €38 without SkypePro and €30 with SkypePro if i have the same consumption pattern! Yes i know i am not a very big caller!


SkypeOut price increase

OK, this change means a price increase, as the usual fee per minute hasn’t changed for most countries!

But they also say: “Calls made as part of the Talk for Britain and US & Canada Skype Unlimited Calling plans are exempt from connection fees.

This will indeed bring quite a lot of supplementary revenue for Skype and higher costs for me!


Skype Internet TV

My Flemish-Belgian friend Jan in Malaysia was wondering in his blog what kind of marketing strategy there is behind the new name “Joost” for the former “Venice” project of the Video service being developed by the Skype founders. He literally says: “Could they really not come up with a name that is a bit more commercial… Arfff. Why not just the new Internet television project: simply 'Skype TV'”.

Jan should be happy, because even the Flemish Financial Newspaper had today probably the same thoughts about the name, because the title of their short article on the last page of the newspaper was: "Internet-tv from Skype receives the name Joost"!


Skype Forum growth

On December 31 the Skype Forum had registered more then 140.000 usernames since it started officially on September 25, 2003.

The growth of Forum users is still exponential. The increase of users has now reached a speed of 300 new users per day, as shown on the “cleaned” graph below.

Why cleaned? I eliminated data concerning some known SpamBots, as mentioned in my posts of August, 2006 and confirmed by Jaanus, the main Skype Blogger, in his personal blog.

The growth of Forum users certainly is another indication that Skype is growing.

However, there is also a “bad side” on the forum growth story. Quite a lot of people go to the forum because they have some technical question, technical problems or to make a complaint.

There are 8 main topics on the English part of the forum, and in each “last” topic post, i looked at the title. At 17h00 GMT+1 yesterday (when preparing this post) 5 were complaints (“choppy sound”, “DUPED”, “Charged twice”, “Problems”, “no word from Skype”) one was written in български and i didn’t understand, one was a suggestion (“Skype needs add fax function”), and one was information (“Article for Skype Plugin”).

What i want to suggest with this, is that high forum growth indeed means Skype growth but could also mean “more complaints” of the Skype user base. The good thing about the Forum: besides the volunteers, several Skype Staff people read it, answer questions or solve problems.


SkypeIn Belgium: +3270xx?

The following is a partial free translation of the main financial newspaper De Tijd from the Flemish (Dutch speaking) part of Belgium, and now i understand better why there isn’t a SkypeIn service yet, and why it could probably arrive still this year!

Lower Threshold for new Telephone Players
The BIPT (Belgian Telecom Regulator) has prepared a new draft for the attribution of telephone numbers. One of the noticeable changes is the introduction of special network independent numbers for internet telephony (nomadic usage). These will begin with the prefixes 70 for persons and 79 for companies.

Two changes are even more important. The first one (the only one i will translate) implies that telecom companies can transfer blocks of numbers that were attributed to them, to other companies. This was already possible in the past, but was juridical unclear. The new telecom laws of the end of last year definitely stopped this. The old regulation made it virtually impossible for new players to enter the market: they had to ask permission to the BIPT, but this was expensive and very complicated. Now the threshold will go down again.
12/01/2007 - De TIJD


Skype benefactor

On January 2 i became a Skype Benefactor!

I am the administrator of a Skype Group also called “Skype for Business Control panel”, and one of the members didn’t use Skype for more than 6 months, therefore i lost “my” money!

In Africa 1.89 € is a lot of money, in Belgium it is about the price of a beer! But i am not happy at all to spill a beer!

Skype says “We’ve developed this tool for the person in your company in charge of the money.

Well, once allocated, i can’t take the money back. Or, when a member of my group leaves the company, i can’t use the credit anymore, unless the person gives me his password. So i am not in charge anymore, but the person using the account i allocated money to ... and Skype!

I don’t think there is one manager who will take the risk to put huge amounts of money in a lot of user accounts … to see part of his money vanish although it hasn’t been used!

Major improvements are needed to really attract bigger companies!

How to improve? Here my suggestion:
  • Skype could allow the administrator to create a group and to allocate several "owned" usernames to it.
  • Each username has two passwords, one only known by the group manager, and another one by the user of the Skype account.
  • The Group manager can always "if wanted" disable or reset the password of the user and get the money of his account back.
  • The user can't allocate money to his account, as it is a business account.


Holiday lethargy

Every year around Christmas and New Year people pretend there will be a surge of users online because of people wanting to call their family. Of course there is a difference between “users online” and “calls”. Perhaps there are indeed a lot of calls on New Year, but according to the number of concurrent people online the contrary seems to be true, see the graph (adapted from a screen capture from www.nyanyan.to):

  • Before that on weekdays users online fluctuated between 8.4 and 5 million users online,
  • At weekends fluctuations between 6.8 and 3.7 million,
  • And as you can see: on New Year between 6.1 and 3.2 million.
  • Christmas was even worse! Maximum users online 5.7, minimum 4.2 million!
  • On January 2, still a lot of people stay in bed (hangover?), therefore not yet the 8 million.
By the way: hurrah!!!! Skype Journal is online again with a post yesterday by Jim Courtney!


Best wishes for 2007

My “Skype” wishes for 2007:
  • Much more users and therefore free Skype to Skype calls
  • Better and consistent SkypeOut quality
  • More SkypeIn countries
  • Adoption of Skype by bigger companies
  • Less payment problems (credit purchases and similar)
  • And translated from my newspaper (see the text in the inserted image): integration of Skype with SIP