Microsoft Opens Up Skype for Web Beta in U.S. and U.K.

The company expands the browser-based voice and video calling application to all users; no Skype client is required.

Microsoft Skype for Web

Microsoft continues to expand access to its online voice and video communications offering. Now, all users in the United States and United Kingdom can make Skype calls or conduct text chats directly in their Web browsers without downloading and installing a Skype client.

"As we explained at the end of last year, Skype for Web is an important step for Skype as we move towards implementing the technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the Web a reality," Jonathan Watson, Skype senior product marketing manager, wrote in a May 5 company blog post. Last November, Microsoft announced that it was rolling out Skype for Web to a limited number of users, as well as working on a way to deliver the technology without a browser plug-in.

"But just as importantly, we're doing it because the hundreds of millions of people that visit every month told us they want to call and IM when they visit our Website," Watson continued. "We know how critical it is for you to get to your conversations—and Skype for Web helps you get connected anytime."

Visitors to the site in the United States and United Kingdom can get started by logging in with their Skype credentials. Once access is granted, "you'll notice your contacts and conversations load in just a few seconds, so whether you usually use Skype on a mobile, tablet, native desktop app or a TV, you'll see your latest chats are ready to respond to in your browser," Watson noted.

The move follows a major overhaul of Skype for Clicking the Skype icon in the Webmail service's interface now sprouts a sidebar that replicates most of the functionality of the stand-alone app and makes it easier to search for contacts, make calls and continue chats where the user left off.

Skype for Web's search functionality has been similarly streamlined, as part of ongoing enhancements the company is releasing for the product. "Instead of two separate lists for contacts and recent conversations, Skype for Web introduces a timeline view—a single, searchable list that makes it easier to start new conversations and find existing ones," said Watson.

Skype's developers still need some time to work on a plug-in-less version of the Web application, it seems. "Don't forget to install the plug-in before you make or receive your first call," instructed Watson.

Microsoft also revealed that Skype Translator, the company's near-real-time translation technology, is being added to Skype for Windows Desktop App. "We are targeting the end of summer 2015 for the roll-out to begin," said fellow Skype marketing manager Yasmin Khan in June 8 announcement.

Since lifting the Skype Translator sign-up requirement last month, usage surged 300 percent, she reported. Currently, the app's spoken language support includes English, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin. Fifty written languages are supported using the software's instant messaging component, and there are more to come. "We will continue to expand the repertoire of languages as they meet our quality standard," Khan said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...