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Skype is Good Again

This post is all about how I came to start using Skype early in 2020 after more than 10 years away. We’re going to get to the reasons why, but first, I think it’s important to go back and figure out how we got here. If you don’t need convincing, you can catch up with me on Skype right now!

First, let’s go back in time

I think a lot about communicating with others, especially when it comes to using technology, and the pros and cons of the rapid pace of change in how we can stay in touch with another.

When I first started using cloud instant messaging and video chat, Skype was pretty much the only game in town. It turns out, a lot of people who experienced the early internet also got accounts on Skype, even though the odds are very good that they don’t use the account(s) anymore. In addition, the service has gone through so many transitions and consolidations that most people probably don’t remember their account credentials or have access to their 15 year old email accounts anymore.

To give some context for my rediscovery of Skype, we have to go back a ways. Early in 2019, I made the decision to delete my Facebook account. The company has simply had too many privacy disasters and I wasn’t particularly interested in the ‘pros’ of using the Facebook service. Basically the only reason I wanted to still have a Facebook account was to use Facebook Messenger, because for my group of friends, it’s very much the ‘default’ messaging service.

Deactivating Facebook (the social network)

Sometime in the last few years, Facebook made it possible to use Messenger while having the social networking part of your account deactivated. At that point, I untangled the complex pieces of my Facebook account from the other parts of my life, including my websites, Facebook Pages (moved administration of those to the equivalent of a shell account), all my ‘Sign in with Facebook’s, and anything else that I didn’t want to take down completely when I deleted the account.

With that done, and after exporting 5 GB of data from Facebook, I deactivated my account. I spent almost all of 2019 without a Facebook account, and in the end, I found only one thing to ‘miss’ about Facebook. This was the fact that people who host events use Facebook as their canonical invite pool, and therefore invite only people on Facebook. This is in spite of the fact that Facebook makes it *REALLY* easy to invite people to events via email, and even let them RSVP. Very weird that people let that filter bubble control the social circles of their events (it turns out that you basically don’t exist if you don’t have an account), but who am I to judge.

One of the reasons I wanted to make this set of changes to my internet social life is that Facebook has a terrible record on privacy, and so in parallel to making these changes, I was doing a lot of work to try to find and convince my friends to use a more secure messaging service, preferably one not owned by an advertising company. I went through lots of different options, including apps that were TOO focused on privacy like Signal. I explored open source options hosted on a server of my own like Mattermost, which is a really great application which is super cheap to run and lets teams of all sizes chat.

Starting to move away from Facebook (the company)

In the end, having explored what I thought were all the options, my friends and I landed on an app called Wire. It’s respected in the industry for being secure, in that you can create a cryptographic link with somebody in person so you can have complete confidence you’re chatting with somebody who is who they say they are. I don’t get that intense about security, but it’s good to know the option is out there.

Now, we can fast forward to the beginning of this year, 2020, and the day I decided I needed to get rid of all ties to Facebook1Side note here, I also deactivated Instagram as part of this, because even though I hadn’t really used the service at all in about that same one-year period, having the account still helps the company (Facebook), and I saw no reason to do that. Once again, I downloaded an export of all my photos, and I was gone., because it’s a company that just doesn’t deserve more chances. Basically the last set of people who I was chatting with on Messenger is my immediate family, and I knew they would have no interest in going to Wire, and frankly it’s not a great looking app and I wanted to try again to see if I could find something better. The other point here is that since I wanted to video chat with my family, I needed solid video and Wire didn’t have that for groups.

If I wanted to move away from Messenger, I would need to find something that would replace the functionality that I wanted with my parents and family.

Finding Skype (again)

It’s at this point that Skype comes back in to the picture, and where things get most interesting, from my perspective. Having spent about 15 years learning everything I can about technology and multiple apps platforms, I know good software when I see it. There was a good long time when Skype was NOT a good app, but honestly that time is behind us.

The app is owned by Microsoft, it’s not run by an advertising company, it runs on every platform known to man (including the web), it’s updated frequently, and with a very consistent and complete set of features on all platforms, and it keeps up with the trends and new features of the platforms it’s on, like dark mode. There is a reason TV stations often use Skype for interviews, and it’s because it’s rock solid and you can easily set it up as a base to stream live video.

For all the reasons listed above, and so many more, I thought it was worth giving Skype another shot. Honestly, I’ve added the app to my phone and computer now, and it just keeps impressing me. The biggest problem the service has in my view so far is that a lot of people don’t remember the credentials for their old accounts and so they end up needing to make a brand new account to use it again, and honestly that only bothers me and other nerds who care about data and account consistency.

My family used Skype for our first family video call on it this past weekend, and it was honestly excellent. It might be unmatched when it comes to features used for actual human interaction, and the video and sound quality was unbelievable.

Yes, you should try Skype

Honestly, my next step here, and my main purpose for writing this ridiculously long piece, is to tell you that I think you should be using Skype, potentially more than any other chat/video platform out there. Depending on the operating systems you and your friends use, this is almost always a very good choice.

So yes, I think you should try Skype, or give it another try if you haven’t recently, because while I had written the once great app off a long time ago, it is BACK, and definitely better than ever!

You can find me on Skype using the username rob.attrell, or by following this link. Hope to see you there!

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