Skype has filed for an initial public offering aiming to raise $100 million USD. That would be a nice pile of money to fill the war chest for the upcoming fights with smaller providers like Fring and of course Apple’s FaceTime.
The question for us is of course: will this have any effect on the current business model, e.g. will the service stay free.
I already talked about the plans of Skype thinking of displaying ads on their service and with the filing we now have the written proof:
Develop new monetization models, including advertising. Our users made over 152 billion minutes of Skype-to-Skype calls in the twelve months ended June 30, 2010. We believe this represents a meaningful opportunity to increase our revenue from alternative monetization models, including advertising, gaming and virtual gifts.
Advertising, gaming and virtual gifts. May God be with us. Up to now Skype was a quiet, functional and hence professional tool for teaching online. With gaming, virtual gifts and advertising it will most likely turn into a blinking spam machine like all the other services are.
Maybe I am over exaggerating a bit but I think this will change a lot. I was just having a talk with Kay about our subconcious decisions based upon email addresses and VoIP clients. I think most of us see a Hotmail account different from an AOL account or a GMail account. Same is true for Skype. If someone is using Yahoo Talk or MSN I personally see it as being not as professional as people using Skype which is of course totally unfair on the one hand but there is also data to prove my point.
There is simply a higher weirdo / pervert rate on the other services. As soon as I log in on my Yahoo account I immediately get messages ranging from “Hey how are you?” over “Buy authentic Gucci stuff!” to “Wanna see my private parts?”. On Skype I get about 3 of those messages per week and I am on Skype for about 12 hours a day in general, seven days a week.
Now, if we take this worst case scenario, what are the options for online teachers? Maybe this could be the tipping point for virtual classroom environments. Up to now there was no real reason to use one (I know, I know 21 reasons to prefer…) but if Skype is turning into a Yahoo Chat 2.0 I would actually start thinking about an alternative and that might either be a service that would take the niche of a professional VoIP service like Skype is today or it might as well be a virtual classroom.
For now let’s hope for the best.