Technological Changes to Improve the Skype Experience
Last July I blogged about the work we were doing to improve Skype. I shared then that these ongoing changes to Skype are driven by our commitment to constantly improve the reliability, scalability, and functionality of the everyday Skype experience. In October last year, we delivered the first fruit of our ongoing investments in improving the availability and capabilities of Skype as we launched the always reachable Skype for Windows 8 and Skype for Windows Phone 8.
Our team continues to bring innovative features to our users—features that help mums and dads, grandparents and grandkids, neighbors and long-lost friends to stay connected. As a result, we continue to evolve the Skype experience across all of our supported platforms.
We’ve made significant technological improvements in the past year. Today, I’d like to share more about these upgrades and how they change the data we process and explain how the safeguards we apply protect our users’ privacy and security. These improvements help ensure that Skype video, audio and chat are there when you want them, help preserve the battery on your mobile device, and prepare the way for exciting new capabilities that we’re building now.
Peer to Peer (P2P) in a mobile, cloud connected world
The computing landscape has changed significantly since Skype was founded just ten years ago. Originally, Skype relied on our users’ computers to do much of the heavy lifting. These computers were typically desktop PCs connected both to power outlets and to the Internet at all times and provided the processing power and connectivity to support Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) capabilities. In today’s devices and services world more and more people choose to use Skype from devices like smartphones and tablet PCs that rely on battery power, that on average have less processing power than modern desktop computers, and that are not physically or permanently connected to the Internet. This shift in the way people use Skype has required us to enhance and augment our P2P connectivity as well as conserving battery and processing power, while delivering even more of the functionality and reliability that our users expect.
As we delivered Skype for Windows 8, we embarked on using the cloud to assist clients in delivering chat messages and connecting calls. Skype clients continue to evaluate bandwidth, connectivity and firewall settings to select the most appropriate path for the call and continue to connect devices for P2P calls across the Internet so that users get audio and video connections that ‘just work’. Our adoption of the new Skype cloud marks our biggest architectural change in 10 years. As we continue on this journey these new technologies are helping us to drive improved battery life and improved connections making Skype as a whole more resilient and providing a platform for exciting new features that we will introduce in the coming months.
Introducing new features
The cloud has already enabled us to introduce exciting new features such as video messaging which lets you catch up whenever or wherever you are, connecting you with the special people in your life even when your schedules conflict. We will continue to invest in bringing new Skype scenarios online, putting the people who matter most to you just a click away. For example, in Outlook.com you can now connect through Skype without leaving your browser.
Improving registration and account security
Since introducing Skype for Windows 8, we have continued to invest in improvements to the user experience across all of our clients. In particular, sign-up, sign-in and improving security and managing Skype accounts has been a focus for us. Last month, we started to extend the benefits of Microsoft account across all of our Skype clients. Microsoft account improves your experience if you forget or lose your account credentials allowing us to help you recover your account and also allows you to benefit from great new features such as two step verification, which brings additional security to you. As we continue to bring Skype to new platforms, such as Xbox, Microsoft account will mean that you have just one account to remember and can unlock communications with a growing community of over 700 million Microsoft account users worldwide.
Improving Skype chats
Skype chat is an area we have been investing in. Our users send billions of chat messages every month, and enhancing the performance and quality of this core messaging experience is one of the key improvements we have made with the support of our cloud.
Along with introducing support for Microsoft account in October last year, the Skype cloud also added the ability to queue and deliver chat messages even if the intended recipient is offline – so you can be ‘always reachable’ to the people who matter most. With Windows Phone 8 (and soon across other Skype mobile clients), this technology enables you to receive notifications when new messages arrive regardless of whether the Skype app is running.
We also know that people are engaging more and more with each other and with Skype across multiple devices at home, on the go, and at work so we are working to synchronize chat message status across all of your devices so you will know the current status of all of your chats on every device you use to interact with Skype. This capability will be rolling out across clients over the next few months.
We take our commitment to your security and online safety seriously, and our cloud also helps us protect you from malicious attacks, spam and fraud. In common with other Microsoft cloud messaging and email products, our anti-spam and anti-malware filters help stop the delivery of potentially dangerous content.
Improving Skype-to-Skype calls
As mobile computing continues to evolve so must P2P Skype calling. Our cloud will help preserve your device’s battery by enabling the mobile Skype app to stay in “sleep” mode until you need it through the use of push notifications. A common feature in mobile apps, these notifications are the same technology that provide updates on sports scores, weather bulletins, or breaking news. In order to send a push notification message to a sleeping Skype app, the calling app sends the Skype ID and IP address of the parties, as well as the time and date, to our cloud. Once we send the push notification, we collect and store information about the call, for example, the Skype IDs of the participants, their IP addresses, the time of the call, whether the call was successful and its duration. If you are away from your device, your ‘missed calls’ will be synchronized across all of your devices helping you avoid missing that important message.
This step forward enables us to deliver a better calling experience and support new scenarios, including, with Skype on Windows 8.1, the ability to answer calls directly from the lock screen with your choice of audio, video or a message.
These cloud notifications and the data we store allow us to invest in improving the calling experience, enhancing the quality and reliability of Skype-to-Skype calls and releasing new, innovative features that our users want and expect. We take our responsibilities with regard to this data seriously, and to help secure and protect it, we apply strong physical, technical and administrative security protections, only storing partial IP addresses and cryptographically hashing the Skype IDs we store to help protect our users’ privacy.
At Skype, we are proud to provide simple, reliable and fast ways to help our users stay in touch every day with the people who matter most. And we are committed to constantly innovate and improve our features to provide the best possible experience. We’ll continue to update you as we develop new features and roll out other changes to the way Skype works.