Skype 3 Beta Promotes Shopping, Group Chat

Leading VOIP developer Skype has introduced a beta version of its Skype 3.0 software for Windows. The new version features simplified click-to-call functionality—enabling users to place calls to ordinary phone numbers with just one click while they’re online—as well as multi-person community conversations via public chats and “SkypeCasts.” The program also features a revised interface with a streamlined look and feel.

“We’re introducing a number of new features with Skype 3.0 beta including Click-to-Call which lets users make calls to ordinary phone numbers when they are online,” said Henry Gomez, Skype’s Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Worldwide Operations. “Click-to-call is so easy to use. For example, imagine you’re searching online for a good place to eat and you find a restaurant and want to make a reservation. All you need to do is click on the number and you can make a direct call using SkypeOut.”

SkypeCasts are now available in beta form, and are moderated discussions of up to 100 people from around the world. Users can browse ongoing discussions via a new “live” window in the Skype application. Skype 3 also supports Public Chats, which are online text conversations based on instant messaging. Any user can start or join a public chat from within Skype, and hosts can moderate conversations, reject or ban participants, and set rules for participation.

Skype 3’s click-to-call functionality is meant, in part, to facilitate shopping—no surprise, given Skype’s $4 billion acquisition last year by online auction giant eBay. Skype is expected to emphasize e-commerce in more of its features as the application evolves; click-to-call functionality is seen as a way for businesses to enable online users to contact customer service or sales via telephone. Over time, Skype anticipates phone calls will be free for most telephone users, so the company is looking to shift its revenue base away from telecommunications and towards e-commerce and other value-added services.

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