So what will be Skype’s legacy, having gone from the first thing you think of when considering video conferencing to an app that has sat out the biggest potential use case for its product in human history? There will be twin legacies, reckons Romanoff. “From Microsoft’s point of view it’ll be a success; they purchased a niche company and integrated it into Microsoft Office so it’ll have expanded its reach and usage,” he says. But the early adopters of Skype will shake their head at what Microsoft did, he believes. “They took this cool little product and made it corporate.”
Not that people are using either as much as Zoom, which benefited both from being free to download and more reliable than its competitors. (Eric Yuan, Zoom’s founder, has been working on web conferencing software since he arrived in the US in 1997 from China to work for WebEx). An April 2020 survey of 1,110 US companies by Creative Strategies showed that 27 per cent of businesses primarily used Zoom for video calls and meetings, compared to 18 per cent that used Teams, and 15 per cent that used Skype. Many companies had quietly moved over from Skype to Zoom in the intervening years as Skype added more and more features that didn’t fit the core functionality of the service: producing decent quality video calls. And so when coronavirus hit, what in the first half of 2017 would have been a call to download Skype to keep in touch instead became a demand to download Zoom.