In July, Microsoft made the surprising announcement that it was going to add useful new features to Skype: built-in call recording, along with the end-to-end encrypted messaging and NDI API support previously announced. Today, that drive to make Skype a better client for chat and calls continues with a new direction for the development of the user interface that emphasizes these core features.
However, the users of the traditional, legacy Skype desktop application weren’t happy with Microsoft’s plans to force them to use Skype for Life. While Skype for Life is the only option for the new features, such as encryption and NDI support, it doesn’t include certain legacy features, such as the ability to create multiple windows (one per chat) and a range of online statuses. Moreover, Skype for Life included and prioritized features such as Snapchat-like statuses, which haven’t really caught on and which pushed the things that people do use Skype for—calling and messaging—into the background.
With this new focus on calling and messaging, the Snapchat-like statuses have been removed. The desktop interface is styled a lot closer to the legacy application, and the use of animations and gradients has been somewhat toned down. The mobile interfaces put the key calling and messaging buttons along the bottom of the screen, providing easier access to the dialer pad. The company is promising to reinstate other features from the legacy client—multiple chat windows, greater control over online status and privacy, better searching, and more. The legacy clients will still be end-of-lifed, but it seems that they’ll stay around until the feature disparity is resolved.
Meanwhile, the end-to-end encryption capability moved out of preview into the stable client a few weeks ago, and today call recording is enabled.
It’s peculiar that it has taken Microsoft this long to figure out where its priorities with Skype should lie, but as a regular user of the service, this looks like a welcome change. The development of Skype has long been confusing, with multiple clients and disparate feature sets and development directions. The consolidation on a single client ended a large part of that unwelcome variance; the new focus on the features and capabilities that matter should mean Skype starts getting meaningfully better at the things that people use it for. That’s certainly more useful than trying to clone Snapchat.