Wrong Way, Skype

Skype is terminating its Extras developer program, they announced earlier today, because “not enough people were using [the tools] to justify” it. No new projects will be certified, and existing ones will expire over time. This is exactly the wrong thing for Skype to be doing.

Om Malik goes on a justifiable rant, arguing that Skype doesn’t understand developers, never understood developers, and shouldn’t be trusted by developers. For the record, I agree. Skype has not been much of a team player when it comes to community over the years.

And they’re right, the Extras program was a dud. But only because developers didn’t have any real ability to do deep integrations. For all the pomp, third party developers have never been able to do much more than skim the surface of Skype functionality. No wonder the program never took off.

What developers need to really integrate with Skype is the ability to treat the call function as a service, and build it directly into other applications. Today, almost without exception, to make a Skype call requires the Skype client to be opened.

Skype has made a very few exceptions to this rule. iSkoot for example, runs the heavy part of Skype on a server so that mobile users could get the functionality on their devices. But these were one-off deals, not via an API or developer program.

What developers need is the ability to build the core Skype functionality directly into applications. Like Outlook. Or Facebook. And give those developers a revenue share from paid Skype-out calls, supposedly Skype’s biggest and fast growing revenue source.

It’s not clear Skype is going to go in that direction, although the new buyers have said quietly that they’re going to look hard at skype-as-a-service. and some Skype employees I’ve spoken with have said much the same – at some point, expect developers to be able to do deep integrations with the Skype service, not just launch the Skype client.

We’re all waiting for that day. And when it comes Skype will win, too. Skype-out calls will absolutely skyrocket, and the revenue will pour in. But for now, Skype, you’re going in the wrong direction. Instead of killing your limited APIs and tools, you should be expanding them dramatically.