In a bid to make Skype more social, Microsoft is launching a whole new generation of Skype clients. The big new feature? “Highlights,” a way of publishing photos and videos so that your contacts can keep up with what’s going on in your life. Highlights are more or less a replica of the Snapchat Story, a way of sharing time-limited pictures and videos to your contacts. It changes the client from being a strictly conversational application (with both one-to-one and group chats) into something that also offers a broadcast style.
While Microsoft’s Skype messaging system is still regularly used by hundreds of millions of people, it’s not the mindshare winner it once was. A range of mobile-oriented upstarts—including Kik, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger—have proliferated in the smartphone era. Skype initially struggled in this new world, with its peer-to-peer architecture making it a poor fit for a world where connectivity can be intermittent and conversations are expected to migrate between devices.
Over a number of years, Microsoft has moved Skype to a more conventional client-server architecture, using the opportunity to add useful features such as vastly improved file sharing and offline messaging. With this ground work finally done, the company has been developing a new client, internally named Skype for Life, to try to reconnect with this audience.