Skype 3.1 Moves into Information Services

VoIP provider Skype has announced Skype 3.1 for Windows which rolls out two new features which take the application out of the realm of voice communication and into the realm of information services: SkypeFind, and a new beta service called Skype Prime.

SkypeFind is intended to be a user-generated guide to businesses and services: Skype users can rate, review, and post comments about their favorite (and least favorite) businesses and locations, no matter where they live. SkypeFind debuted in beta form in late February and has so far accumulated almost 5,000 listings in over 120 countries. Skype (obviously) expects the database and utility of SkypeFind to expand as more of the service’s 171 million worldwide users tap into SkypeFind and add their own content: it expects more than a million listings by the end of 2007.

“SkypeFind brings the global community to your doorstep. Skype users love sharing knowledge with one another because it is so liberating and empowering. ” said Sten Tamkivi, general manager of eCommerce for Skype, in a release. “SkypeFind is also so easy to use— even if you’re abroad. If you’re traveling in France and you want to find a great restaurant, just log onto Skype, click on SkypeFind and you have recommendations you can trust, direct from the Skype community.”

Skype has also introduced a new service (in beta form) called Skype Prime. The basic idea behind Skype Prime is to tap into Skype’s enormous user base and give those users—whether businesses or individuals—a chance to earn real money for sharing their expertise and knowledge with other Skype users. Users can set up and promote their information services via Skype Prime, and set their own per-minute or one-off fees for their on-call services. Skype Prime fees are paid by users via PayPal; Skype takes a 30 percent cut off the top.

At first glance, Skype Prime looks like it may quickly descend into a morass of psychic astrologers and “adult chat” connections which charge outrageous per-minute fees for…”services,” but Skype’s call conferencing features may enable new sorts of online businesses, such as real-time translation, technical support, or even real-time information services. Skype Prime has only just launched, and Skype expects the service will grow organically.

Skype 3.1 is currently only available for Windows; system requirements don’t currently include Windows Vista, although soe users report the software is functioning under the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system.