About two weeks ago Skype introduced in-call advertisements in voice calls or “conversation ads” as they call it. Well, we can’t say that we did not see this one coming as Skype has talked about plans to monetize the platform through ads for a while now. And you know that I am probably the last one to blame a company when it wants to make money, in fact the question “What is your business model?” is probably the one I use in every talk I have.
And let’s be honest. If you were really annoyed by the ads there is a pretty simple fix. Just add some credit to your account. When it’s short to expire just call yourself on your land line number for a couple of seconds and your credit will be good for the next six months or so.
Still, I have never been a fan of advertisements to monetize a service or platform, especially when this revenue model is added at a later stage like in this case. Yes, I know that my Deutsch Happen project is pretty much plastered with ads but hey, it’s free. Skype has been my tool of choice when it comes to online teaching and content creation for a long time now and I have to admit that it is still the best VoIP client out there. Nevertheless, I feel an increasing personal need to find a new service that has the potential to replace Skype as I ran into a lot of minor problems with Skype and the tools I use that are based on Skype lately. I am just not 100% happy using it, anymore.
For example, Chris and I gave it a shot and we tried out ooVoo, a VoIP client that I had used in the early days of EDUKWEST to record my interviews. And though the advertisements are even more intrusive than on Skype in the free version, the advantage is the integrated call recording that works like a charm. Downside however are the smaller videos you get from the callers and the audio also cannot compete with Skype.
The second option I am currently playing around with is Google+ Hangouts, and it might be a potential Skype replacement for some of our shows like ENT. The platform seems to be pretty robust, similar to Skype and there are advantages like live streaming on your Google+ profile and your YouTube channel. The recording will automatically be added to YouTube, as well.
But still, Skype is on nearly everyone’s desktop, mobile phone or tablet these days. At least I have this impression when I am talking to interviewees for our shows. It has become the VoIP client that people use on a regular basis – at least here in the western world. We should keep in mind though that Skype is banned in UAE and the recent articles around a new law in Ethiopia which might put people in jail for using VoIP services, though it seems that it was a misunderstanding. Talking about internationalization in education this is definitely something we have to take into account.
I believe, reactions to ban Skype are largely due to the fact that governments cannot control what’s being talked about on the service. And I assume as long as Skype and other VoIP services are not willing to open a back door (and I hope that they remain firm here), those services will remain unavailable. On the other hand, these reactions also show the increasing popularity of VoIP as an alternative to telephones all over the world.
But back to my search for Skype alternatives. Asking people in advance if they are on Google+ to add them to a Hangout or sending them a link to join an ooVoo call via the web feels unprofessional and looking back at my early interviewing days it also did not work in 50% of the cases.
One thing is clear though. In the coming weeks and months you will see more live events from me and probably our EDUKWEST team. The experiences I had using Google+ Hangouts were pretty positive, especially from the viewers’ side the reaction was very positive. There is definitely a need for live content and, probably more importantly, live interaction with the audience. The interview Benjamin Stewart did with me on WizIQ lately was another reminder for me to get back in the trenches and talk with people in real time.