A Skype Developer blog post today, The future of Skype Extras, has created confusion and havoc amongst the blogging community that follows Skype (see, for example, the Zemanta links below). Having followed the Skype Developer Program over the past three years (and currently being a commercial user of some of the developers’ offerings) let me put this in some perspective:
- Over the past four years Skype has developed a set of API’s that allow third party developers to create their own offerings that make use of, or incorporate as a conversation tool, Skype.
- One of the first utilities was Pamela, which provides call recording (now audio and video), call archiving, call management and other features that enhance the Skype user experience. Others that came along include Skylook, OnState Call Center, HiDef Conferencing and Evoca.
- Late in 2006 Skype developed a marketing engine for these partner offerings and called the resulting marketing program “Skype Extras”. It was an attempt at an App Store that became part of the standard Skype for Windows client download. In the Skype for Windows 4.1, a user can go to “Tools | Skype Extras” and see a menu of these software partners’ programs.
- The Skype Extras backend, called Skype Publishing Studio, included an engine where developers could establish licensing terms (including allowing trials and periodic subscription renewals) and incorporate a transaction engine for payments via Skype Credits. Only one partner ever used the transaction engine: Scendix, for their PamFax offering. In fact, it was their use of all the features of the Skype Extras engine that contributed to their award as the winner of Skype’s Mashup competition held in the summer of 2007.
- In the fall of 2007, Niklas Zenstromm resigned as CEO of Skype and the Skype Extras program effectively languished. A long promised road map never materialized. During the interregnum I put my thoughts down in A Primer for Skype’s Direction – Skype’s Extras Gallery and Developer Partner Program.
- Two popular Skype Software Partners, Unyte and VAPPS (HiDef Conferencing) have been acquired by IBM Lotus Sametime Division and Citrix respectively.
- Software Partners, such as Scendix (Pamela, PamFax), OnState (Call Center and Virtual PBX), Skylook, InnerPass and Evoca have continued to develop and mature their offerings. However, there was one noticeable trend – they also reduced their dependence on Skype, either by adding other voice and IM services to into their offerings or, in the case of PamFax 2.0, adding new payment mechanisms such as PayPal, Moneybookers and WorldPay.
- Most of these vendors have effectively found other ways to promote their offerings through other channels. Certainly OnState and Scendix are seeing record levels of activity and revenues.
So to clarify today’s announcement:
- Skype Extras as a marketing program is coming to an end over the next year. No new software or upgrades will be certified for, or included in, the Skype Extras offering.
- Current Skype Extras will continue to be available via the Skype for Windows client “until they expire” (expiration may take up to a year). And those software programs that include a “check for update” feature will be able to provide a path to their latest offering.
- Skype will continue to support their software partners via the Public API’s; documentation will be maintained. (Developers had often lauded Skype’s level of support in this regard.) In other words, developers can count on having the technology resources required to continue development and support of their offerings.
- The Skype Shop will continue to feature currently listed Skype Extras.
- In an email to developers Skype also mentioned that they’ll have three months (until December 11) to continue using Skype Credits. As noted above, Scendix, whose PamFax was the only program using Skype Credits, has already built in alternative payment mechanisms.
In summary it’s approaching the end of a marketing program, but definitely not developer support. As an app store, the Skype Extras program was not exactly a success story; however, the underlying API’s and support for them are not going away. The smart developer partners have evolved their offerings in a way that certainly reduces or eliminates their dependence on the Skype Extras marketing program while experiencing new levels of market success.
Speaking this afternoon with InnerPass CEO Steve Parsloe, whose Skype-enabled document sharing program has certainly become successful via its marketing on Skype Extras, he stated, “I’m confident that Skype is looking at new marketing solutions that will continue to benefit not only its developer partners but also its end users, especially the business users.”
It does leave questions about where Skype is going in terms of supporting their partners’ through some form of a new or revamped Software Developer Program. Skype is taking significant steps to approach the Skype for Business market. In a post later this weekend, I’ll point to some signals as to what could be coming in the future.
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