Skype Turns 10, Prepares 3D Video Calls

A decade and hundreds of millions of users later, Skype explores a new frontier: 3D calling.

Microsoft is celebrating the "decade of meaningful conversations" that Skype, its VOIP software, has enabled during its time on the market. On its Website, the company recalled that on Aug. 29, 2003, "Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded what was to become an indispensable communications solution for more than 300 million people worldwide."

The software giant acquired Skype in 2011 in a deal valued at $8.5 billion, after a stint as an eBay property and as a company owned by private investors. When eBay snapped up Skype in 2005, the service boasted about 53 million registered users. In the years since, Skype has grown dramatically and has reached impressive levels of user engagement.

"It's amazing that more than 1.4 trillion minutes of voice and video calls have been made using Skype," wrote Elisa Steele, Skype's chief marketing officer, in a company blog post. "That's the equivalent of more than 2.6 million years of conversations made in only ten years' time!"

Offering a glimpse at what the next decade has in store for the popular IP communications service, Skype Corporate Vice President Mark Gillett revealed in a BBC interview that his company is working on 3D video calls.

"We've done work in the labs looking at the capability of 3D-screens and 3D-capture," Gillett told the U.K. news outlet. He added that the technology landscape is aligning in a manner that may make 3D calls a viable communications alternative. "We've seen a lot of progress in screens and a lot of people now buy TVs and computer monitors that are capable of delivering a 3D image," he said.

The question of when 3D calling on Skype will appear remains up in the air, however. Claiming that Skype has the technology "in the lab," Gillett said that his company is "looking at the ecosystem of devices and their capability to support it in order to make a decision when we might think about bringing something like that to market."

Gillett hinted that due to the current state of 3D, particularly the dearth of 3D glasses-free displays and 3D cameras on cell phones, the market is years away from ubiquitous 3D calling, especially on mobile devices. "You'll see much more penetration of 3D on TVs, on computers and ultimately in smartphones, probably, ahead of seeing it for sending a video call."

In the meantime, Microsoft is busily integrating Skype into its business and consumer software offerings.

On May 29, the company finally switched on voice, chat and presence reporting between Skype and Lync, Microsoft's enterprise communications platform. Video calling between the two products is still in the works.

Earlier this month, on Aug. 19, the company enabled Skype video calling on, allowing users in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, France and Canada to conduct virtual face-to-face communications directly from the Webmail provider's interface. Skype, formerly a stand-alone app for Windows 8, will become standard issue in the Windows 8.1 update when it launches in October.

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...