Is Skype a tool for calls or chat?

On the blog of Pat Phelan somebody commented “i don’t like being attached to the computer when I am on the phone - I like to do the dishes, and pick up the apartment or office - multitasking! I do use Skype a lot for text chat.

So, is Skype mainly used for (video) calling or for chatting? Is it still a telephony replacement?

Difficult to say, no official data from Skype, and I didn’t find any survey on that topic! That was also the question that MuppetMaster asked some days ago on the Skype Forums.

On the same Pat Phelan blog, 11 comments were posted, including one of the blogger:
  • 5 say they use Skype for calls
  • 3 don’t use it anymore
  • 2 clearly use it for chatting
  • 2 don’t say anything about Skype usage
(Yes the sum is more than 11, one spoke about "calls + chats").
This statistic isn’t relevant of course, and it wasn't a poll!

I will now repeat part of my “forum” answer …

I can believe that some people never use Skype to call. Indeed, some have no microphone on their computer, or have not enough bandwidth to make a decent call, and some are even not interested at all to call with their computer.

The only official data we have is what Josh Silverman said recently: "We’ve helped make video calls mainstream, with about a quarter of Skype-to-Skype calls using video".

Now, let me try a tricky exercise:
  • Skype claims to have cumulated 100 billion minutes skype-to-skype calls.
  • Therefore last year this was about 40 billion minutes (based on a rough calculation i made).
  • If a “mean” call lasts about 10 minutes (my guess), this represents 4 billion calls last year.
  • If there are 40 million active users (raised rounded number based on Hudson Barton his guesses), this is 100 Skype-to-Skype calls per active user per year, or one each 3 or 4 days.
Not too bad, IMHO.
My personal case, rough data from the last 6 months:
  • about half of my contacts seem to have a webcam.
  • i have about 5 Skype-to-Skype calls per month, and in less than half of them i use video.
  • i have about 20 chat messages per month.
  • the proportion is therefore (in my statistical irrelevant case) 20% calls - 80 % chats.
I anyhow think the discussion is useless. Probably most people installed Skype because they heard about the “free calls + video”. Probably most of these people already had an IM tool installed, and probably most of them now chat mainly through Skype with their Skype contacts!

A lot of “probablies”. If anyone has more information, please let me know.


Gary said...

I may not be the typical Skype user here in the USA, however I have looked at the History Tab within my Skype window and found some bits of useful information for your consideration. I must explain that I have known and used Skype for better than 4+ years and the PC is always 'On' as I have relied upon Skype to reduce expenses in the family budget. To this end, I employ Skype-Skype, SkypeIn, SkypeOut, Voice Mail, a Web Camera and a low end Linksys wireless Phone. This has been my arrangement now for more than a two years time and more.

Here is what I have found to my astonishment after reviewing the History Tab within Skype respecting the 30 days of Sept. 2008. The following instances:

Chats: 22
SMS: 7
Skype-Skype: 4
SkypeIn: 165
SkypeOut: 151
FileTransfer 3

Lots of telephone tag with In/Out but with these features and the wireless phone my family's use truly is astonishing. My decision to quit the landline from Verizon has saved a great deal of money. The Call clarity on broadband is quite good. Hardly a handful of contacts are aware that our calls with them are via Skype.

Jean Mercier said...

Hey Gary,

Thanks a lot for your numbers.

You certainly aren't a typical Skype user, but neither am i. No SkypeIn in Belgium, therefore i keep my fixed line (used for business also!).

Interesting to see that the proportion of your small sample of chat / skype-to-skype is similar to mine.

But what i find surprising, is that the proportion of Skype-to-Skype / SkypeIn+SkypeOut is very huge.

Thanks again!

Myroslav Opyr said...

I'm long time Skype user and my usage is not typical as well ;). My country SkypeOut rates are more expensive then local calls thus I do not use Skype for that, and we have no SkypeIn. But I rely on multi-chats a lot in personal and business communication. So last months stats are:

Skypeout: 1
S2S voice: 1
S2S video: 1
Chats: 10*
Multi-chats: 20
File: 1

* Note: all chats with same person that took place on different days is compacted in single chat here

Thus Skype is primarily IM and secondarily Voice/Video.

Jean Mercier said...

Thanks for your stats Myroslav!

You seem to have a usage profile closer to mine.

Anyone else?