50 million or half a billion?

Read the Skype blog here!

Fantastic! As usual they claim they have huge amounts of users, in this case they say: (Skype) already connects over half a billion people around the globe through voice and video conversations that span oceans and time zones.

Why do they exaggerate? Why do they forget to say that it is “usernames” they should say, not users!

  • I have registered 26 usernames, and I use usually only one. Am I “26 users”?
  • My father died last year (unafortunately). Is he still a user? Perhaps he is still alive?
  • My brother lost his password and made a new account. Is he two (2) users?
  • Some spammers register new usernames every day. Are it always different users?
  • And a friend tried Skype, but doesn't use it anymore. But he is still a user, according to Skype!
No, no, no, Skype probably has only some 50 million regular users, not half a billion. How do you otherwise explain that there are ONLY 20 million users online at the same moment at some moments of a day?

When will Skype stop with those lies?


Lisabeth Rosenberg said...

I always take stated figures with a bit of skeptism. First of all the general public barely knows the difference between the meaning of a 1000 percent versus a 1000 fold. And that person might be the author who is reading/writing an article. Second, when businesses and people state "the facts" they often have a hidden agenda and tend to inflate (or deflate) the figures to suit their purpose.

Then there's the added problem of typos & citing inaccurate resources which abound and get endlessly repeated, further reinforcing the errors. Sometimes it takes decades before someone takes a second look or runs an experiment again to correct the bad information. It even happens in the sciences. I 've seen it with my own eyes; I used to work in a research lab. It's all food for thought.

Jean Mercier said...

Thanks for the comment Lisabeth. It seems that the myth of the huge quantities of iron in the spinach (remember Popeye) is also due to a printing mistake in a scientific publication.

In the case of Skype it is deliberate misleading!

wolli said...

Skype belonged to a publicly listed company. And whenever such companies publish a metric -- any metric -- then they have to keep publishing the SAME metric so that the investors would be able to make smarter investment decisions.

Jean Mercier said...

Come on, Peeter, what you say is not very true:
during their eBay period Skype changed the metric concerning Skype to Skype minutes: yes they changed the way of calculating it!

Publicly listed companies can change the non-financial metrics. But of course, this is not advisable, as analysts usually compare numbers from quarter to quarter, therefore they want stable measurements!

The problem is that most analysts only understand financial metrics, and often don’t understand the whereabouts of other technical or customer based metrics well enough.

Let us be honest, half a billion is much more impressive than 50 million! But it still is a lie, a big lie! And this lie could have influenced potential buyers in the past. Although I guess that Niklass Zennström knows very well where he gets (back) in!

Anyway, thanks for your comment.

Favoretti said...

Dear Jean,

While I agree with you that number that were given could be exaggerated, I disagree that they are exaggerated too much. Simple experience in service providing in this industry within the last 15 years showed me the following trend which seems to be approximately true for any given IM/voice service. Amount of total users ~= amount of concurrent online users * 10.

20 million online people 24/7 does not mean that all of those people are geeks with pc's or other skype-aware appliances that keep them online 24/7.

For instance, online game like World of Warcraft, counts about 1.5 million people concurrently online in a given realm (EU/US), whilst there are 15+ million people who bought the game and registered. Yes, they might not play, but they are still a valid counted user who CAN and MAY log in any time.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatnot. They all have users who use them hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or not use at all, but CAN and MAY use them, since they've secured their account. Why can't they be counted as users?


Jean Mercier said...

Thanks Vladimir for your opinion.

It is indeed all about the definition of "user": active, unique, alive, etc.

Don't forget Skype doesn't eliminate usernames, dont forget people who lost their passwords, etc.

Anyway, as long as Skype tells to the press "users" while it is "registered usernames" I will continue to complain.


Anonymous said...

The same is valid for the metrics provided by the mobile phone companies about the subscriber base they have. Although they tend to withraw the inactive prepaid cards after some period of inactivity.

Jean Mercier said...

Hey Anonymous,
Thanks for the comment. Yesterday Skype published some new numbers, and now they speak about 124 million "connected" users.
This looks much closer to reality!

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