Since 2004 Skype has evolved an API kit that allows third party developers to offer Skype-enabled applications that require access to the primary Skype client on Windows, Mac and Linux. Basically it allows developers to extend the functionality of Skype while using the Skype client application. Examples have included call recording applications such as Pamela and VodBurner and hosted desktop sharing applications such as InnerPass (now transitioning to GroupMix).
This past June Skype announced the public beta for SkypeKit, which is intended to add native Skype functionality directly into partner applications. From the developer website:
SkypeKit enables developers to create innovative products and applications that deliver virtually the entire range of Skype’s functionality—including calling, chat, account creation, and contact management—without the need for your users to separately download Skype.
Whereas SkypeKit had largely focused on embedding Skype in consumer electronics hardware, feedback from that announcement demonstrated a demand for more support of desktop applications with integrated Skype functionality.
Today Skype announced changes to the names of their developer offerings:
- SkypeKit for Desktop, which is intended to add native Skype functionality directly into partner applications
- Skype Desktop API, previously known as the Skype API or Public API, which allows developers to extend the functionality of Skype for Windows, Skype for Mac and Skype for Linux.
Basically the previous Skype developer programs continue to exist; however, their branding is changing. It also means that applications developed using the Skype Desktop API can now use the “plugged into Skype” designation shown above.
In addition Skype announced the SkypeKit for Desktop now includes Video API’s which “will allow developers to bring their desktop applications to life using video calling, with the goal of making their applications feel less isolated and more human.” Previously developers could access the the video stream via Skype’s proprietary RTP interface; however, the new API’s relieve developers of a lot of time consuming and complex “wrap around” work that would have been required to provide video in an application. At this point support is for one-to-one video calling; however, group video chat and screen sharing are on the roadmap.
While the announcement post references three case studies, where one is VodBurner that has been using the Skype Desktop API since VodBurner’s launch two years ago. The other two are planning to use SkypeKit for Desktop:
- Tely Labs is still taking beta testers and expects to launch early in 2012;
- Trillian’s Instant Messaging aggregator product has a beta version of Trillian where they are demonstrating Skype integration using SkypeKit.
The announcement also references the new Skype Apps Directory which was discussed here about two months ago.
Bottom line: SkypeKit was first announced mid-2010; it went public in June 2011. If Skype wants to have an viable developer program we need to see results soon that can bring revenue to the developers. Maybe the incentive to recover a $8.5B acquisition investment will provide the focus required to demonstrate that it’s worthwhile to become a Skype developer partner.