November 7, 2006 11:40 PM PST
'Skypecasts' coming to your blog soon
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SAN FRANCISCO--Internet telephony provider Skype plans to offer bloggers and others the ability to hold audio chats in the next version of its Net telephone product, co-founder Niklas Zennström said Tuesday night at the Web 2.0 Summit here.
The next version of Skype will enable people to post a link on a blog or Web site that will take people to a public chat room when clicked on, he said during a question-and-answer session during dinner.
The live chats would be "Skypecasts," which Zennström described as public conversations or audio conferences that people can moderate. He would not provide a timeline for the features except to say it would be "soon."
Meanwhile, Skype has had conversations with many social-networking sites about offering services that would allow users to "share content with each other in a conversation," he said.
On Wednesday, the company released Skype 3.0 Beta for Windows, which features the community chat capabilities. Also in the release is a Click-to-Call feature, which lets users make calls to ordinary phone numbers when they are online.
Skype was the hot Internet company last year, when it was purchased by online-auction pioneer eBay in a deal valued at $2.6 billion at the time. The company offers software that turns broadband connections into phone lines, enabling people to make calls over the Internet, even without going through a personal computer.
Now that it is part of publicly traded eBay, Skype has to pay more attention to its finances, said Zennström, who is Swedish. "The big difference is, now we have to manage according to a quarterly budget," he said. "There are few companies growing as fast as we're growing in revenue," he said. Skype's 2006 revenue is predicted to be $200 million, up from $60 million for last year, he added.
Asked about his thoughts on Kazaa, the file-sharing network he co-founded and then sold the rights to in 2002, Zennström said "we were too early" with the file-swapping technology. "It took five to six years for record companies to embrace the Internet," he said.
The timing is right for video-sharing sites like YouTube, which Google bought recently for $1.65 billion in stock, he said. "If it had been one year earlier, they would have been sued," he said.
Kazaa recently settled its final copyright-related lawsuit with a U.S. music publishers' association after settling similar suits filed by recording artists and movie studies, The New York Times reported last week.
The biggest challenges Skype faces going forward are to get the service onto mobile and handheld devices and to generate revenue from services other than telecommunications, Zennström said. Telecommunications revenues for all companies will drop as the sector's business model moves to offering free phone calls, he said.
Zennström said he was not concerned that traditional telephony carriers might be threatened by VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, services such as Skype. "We are driving prices down for consumers, which is good," he said. "Phone companies need to...change their business models."
He predicted that in 10 years, most telecommunications revenue will come from broadband services.
Meanwhile, Zennström praised two Skype-backed efforts--Spanish-based Fon Wireless, which allows people to share Wi-Fi Internet access points, and " The Venice Project," which marries the TV and the Internet.
"Fon could become the largest public Wi-Fi network" eventually, he predicted. As for the Venice Project, it takes the best things from the TV and puts them on the Internet, rather than the "short, low-quality clips" that comprise most of the online video today, he said.