Skype Reaches A 45M Concurrent User Peak, And What Looks Like A New Stage Of Momentum

In case you thought Skype may be slowing down while settling into being a part of Microsoft and recently celebrating its ninth birthday, here are some numbers that seem to indicate otherwise: Last week, Skype reached a new peak of 45,469,977 concurrent users online, part of a strong run for the peer-to-peer voice/video/chat service this year. Overall it has seen an increase of 70 percent so far in 2012, compared to growth of around 30 percent for the same period in 2011.

The numbers seem to indicate that despite the company now being nine years old, going through two acquisitions — once becoming part of eBay and now part of Microsoft — and facing more competition than ever in the form of Google and others, it is still gaining ground impressively.

A source close to Skype (but not at Skype) brought the user peak, and growth, to our attention, and pointed out some other interesting facts:

  • He says that the 45 million figure comes after Skype added 3 million active concurrent users in a single month, a faster rate than ever before.
  • He also notes that the company has seen an 8 percent month-on-month increase.
  • During holiday periods, Skype’s number of online users usually falls. “The time it takes to recover from this is important,” he notes. “This year the summer lull was just 135 days. Historically, the ‘summer dip’ has been as long as six months.”

Acceleration on a minutes-usage basis started happening leading into 2012, as illustrated by this graph from the Skype Numerology blog (which also noted the 45 million figure), although Skype has not provided recent figures to update this.

Monthly active users also appear to be speeding up. In June 2012, Skype noted that it had reached 250 million connected users per month; October 2011 saw 200 million and December 2012 saw 150 million: in other words, it took 10 months to reach 200 million, but only eight months for the next 50 million to reach 250 million. To date, there have been 3,202,250,105 downloads of Skype clients (although this shouldn’t be seen as a sign of usage).

This last month is not the first time that Skype has seen a sudden growth spurt this year. Voice on the Web in March noted that Skype concurrent usage shot up by 4 million in the space of a couple of weeks: it was at 32 million on February 24 and reached 36 million on March 11. Between March 11 and October 11, Skype has on average been adding more than 1 million users per month.

What we don’t know — although we are asking Skype for more detail — is where that growth is coming from. At the time of the user burst earlier in the year, Voice on the Web wondered about the “Microsoft effect” on Skype — either in the form of tracking users better, or cross-promoting the product better, or releasing a client for Windows Phone in February.

It could be a combination of all three. It could also be down to the fact that it is available on more platforms than ever before: in addition to that Windows Phone client launched in February, in June, Skype announced 70 million Android downloads, and Comcast started to offer Skype on its Xfinity-connected TV platform. That is on top of the iPhone app that Skype has been offering since March 2009.

Or, as our contact notes, it could be just a sign of how “mainstream” Skype has become. No longer the terrain of early or even middle adopters or those that are technologically minded, but anyone with a decent phone or computer who wants a way to make a cheap call.

And what we also don’t know is how well Skype is doing in monetizing its users. The company is launching new products like free Wi-Fi in the UK as it looks to build up other revenue streams through advertising services. And we have heard that Skype in the Workspace, a service aimed at small business users, is due to come out of beta this month. Like the Wi-Fi offering, this too appears to be free — with the intention perhaps to get more engagement from business users, which might in turn start to spend more money on premium services, and become potential targets for other Microsoft products.

As we said above, we’re reaching out to Skype to see if it can offer any more color on the above, and to confirm the figures. Microsoft is reporting its quarterly earnings later this week, on October 18, and there may be more numbers and other details revealed then.