Launched in 2003 and created by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, Skype has been called the “granddaddy” of video chat apps. Bought by the tech giant Microsoft in 2011, Skype continues to boast 40 million daily active users, even with newer competition from apps like Zoom and Facetime.
Defined by Oxford as “a phone system” and Wikipedia as “a telecommunications application”, it may appear that this platform is nothing more than a messaging app, but with new developments and added features, the lines between messaging app and social media have once again blurred. Begging the question, is Skype social media?
On the Skype homepage, it states;
“Skype makes it easy to stay in touch. Talk. Chat. Collaborate.” as well as “Skype is for connecting with the people that matter most in your life and work.”
This seems like pretty strong evidence that the function of the application is to facilitate communications (i.e., personal relationships), but does that alone make it a type of social media?
Looking at the features, we see that Skype also facilitates file, photo, and screen sharing, call recording, subtitles, conferencing, and even “smart messaging” where participants can “react” to messages, much like a user does on Facebook.
Combining all of this together, it does seem like Skype is a type of social media, but even for the writer here, I can’t quite land there yet. It doesn’t feel right.
So what’s the hold up?
When it comes to defining social media, we can have dictionary definitions, but people’s perceptions also play a role. Typically, we associate social media with platforms that allow us to express ourselves, communicate with others, and interact with content on a fairly consistent basis. Many users are also used to having what a former consultant and analyst for Skype, Phil Wolff, would call “weak ties” associated with their social media profiles.
Social Media Today describes a weak tie as a relationship with someone on the outer edges of your social circle. You may have kept their business card in case you need it one day, but if you just called them up for coffee out of the blue it would seem strange.
A strong tie is someone you know well, probably have their phone number, and could carry on a conversation easily with.
On some of the most popular platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, it’s common to have larger amounts of “weak ties” (in the hundreds to even thousands), while Skype users generally have only 6-8 contacts, classified by Wolff as “strong ties”, which may be part of why this platform doesn’t seem to fit the bill for a “social media”.
Despite our own associations, Skype is still an application that does in fact facilitate relationships and allows the sharing of and interaction with content, so we feel safest to say that Skype is a messaging service that contains social media features.
If you disagree, we’d love to hear in the comments why!
So How Can I Use Skype for Business?
This one is pretty straight-forward, with Microsoft Teams (which replaces Skype for Business), you can create group chats, conference calls, and collaborate through Office 365 applications with multiple people able to work on the same documents at once, making it easy to work on team projects from anywhere in the world.
Overall, Skype is a great tool for both personal and business uses, but we are slow to say it’s 100% a type of social media.