Microsoft is making its Skype technology available via Skype.com, providing the platform's 300 million users an alternative to mobile and PC apps.
"We're starting to roll-out a brand new way of using Skype," announced Jonathan Watson, a Skype senior product marketing manager, in a Nov. 14 blog post. Alluding to the many devices and operating systems for which a Skype app is available—Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Xbox One and select smart TVs, to name a few—"not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser," he wrote.
The Skype for Web beta enables users to conduct text chats and place video or voice calls directly from a Web browser and without having to download and install an app, which may be impractical or simply impossible in some cases.
"It's perfect if you prefer using the web rather than an app: perhaps you're sitting at a computer that doesn't already have Skype downloaded," he said. Likewise, Skype for Web can help travelers stay in touch while using devices that prohibit software downloads, like hotel computers.
Until now, those capabilities were reserved for the company's Webmail product, Outlook.com.
Microsoft first enabled Skype chat and voice calling on Outlook.com in April 2013 for users in the United States and United Kingdom. In August 2013, the company followed up with Skype video conferencing. Finally, in March of this year, Microsoft rolled out the fully integrated Skype experience to its worldwide Outlook.com user base.
Watson's post indicates that Skype for Web appears to be headed for a similarly staggered launch. "We're making Skype for Web available to a small number of existing and new users to begin with, and gradually rolling out worldwide in the coming months," he stated.
Although users may not need to download a full client, there is a minor hoop to jump through before they can start communicating with their Skype contacts. Watson informed that "before your first call, you'll need to install a small plug-in to start your conversation."
Currently, Skype for Web works on Windows PCs with Internet Explorer 10 or above, and the newest versions of Firefox and Chrome. Apple Macs require Safari 6 or above.
Microsoft is already working on nixing the plug-in requirement, assured Watson. "With web RTC [Real-Time Communications], there won't be any downloads or installs—you can just get straight to your conversation," he said.
The announcement comes just days after the software giant announced that it was tapping the Skype brand for an update to its business-centric unified communications platform. "In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365," stated Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, in a Nov. 11 announcement.