Still paying for your phone calls? How last century of you...

What’s the big idea?

Saving money. One of our favourite big ideas. Skype is a VoIP (voice-over internet protocol). Using your computer as a phone - that’s not new technology. But Skype has three big things going for it over earlier generations of VoIP: It’s simple to install. It works. It’s free.

You’re in Birmingham, they’re in Bahrain. You both have Skype. Talk to each other for four minutes or four hours. Cost? That would be zero dollars. Quality? Well, you know when you’re in a room and you’re talking to someone? Pretty much like that.

Talk about viral applications. Since its launch in 2003, it’s been downloaded over 183 million times. Skype reckons 2 million people are using it at any single moment. How long before “Skype (verb), to make a landline company cry” reaches the OED?

We at Kineo use it as our default phone service. We use it more than our mobiles. Our Skype addresses are on our business cards. We are dangerously in love with this app. There are others: googletalk, vonant. But Skype’s way out in front. We’re going to be using it in some interesting ways with our clients and network members very shortly.  

Great ideas get what they deserve. Skype was bought by eBay recently for $2.6 billion. Why? Because eBay is a community and Skype enhances the community.

What’s in it for learning?

The same thing that’s in it for eBay: enhanced communities. Online collaboration and support just got a major fuel injection.

E-tutors: You are about to become the centre of the blended universe. Get all of your learners on Skype. You can have one-to-one sessions with them. They can call each other, wherever they are. You can run group sessions – Skype enables four-person conference calling, and festoon (a Skype plug-in can take you up to 200 people with desktop sharing). Yes, you could buy a virtual classroom to do this. Or you could spend that money on something nice for yourself.

Subject Matter Experts: Extend your reach without standing up. Announce that you’ll be on Skype from 9-11 on Tuesday if anyone has questions about your area of expertise. Get people together from wherever. Record your sessions. Content developed, literally as we speak.  Conference calls, schmonference calls.

Language teachers: It’s like finding Google for the first time. There’s already an English Language school that is based entirely on the Skype model. You can buy 15 minute or 50 minute lessons with a personal tutor, on your schedule. Ditto for a sound engineering course. Imagine the potential for Skype support on coaching, presentations, negotiation, telephone sales....

But the greatest thing is that Skype proves that one of the other big ideas we mention this month is true: Love really is the killer app. Skype enables sharing. If you go through the Skype forums, you’ll find hundreds of messages from people inviting you to talk with them about their area of knowledge and interest. Right now I could join a session on home brewing, learning Japanese, or discussing art history. Or I could start one on being an effective e-tutor.

There’s probably a fancy pedagogic term for all of this. Let’s just agree: it’s cool.