Microsoft transforms Skype to take on Instagram, Snapchat with a full redesign

Skype, as you knew it, is no more. The once ubiquitous video-calling app that pioneered the category has pulled a page from Snapchat and Instagram with a complete redesign that puts your phone’s camera front and center.

What’s so different about it? Well, besides the new hip user interface, the Microsoft-owned app’s big new feature is Highlights — a play on Stories, as found in those other well-known social platforms. With Highlights you can take pictures and video, dress them up as you like with sketches, stickers, and text, and blast them out to your followers.

One of the main things that sets Highlights apart from competing features found in other apps is the length of time they’re made available — one week, versus 24 hours. You also have more granular control over who you can share your Highlights with, be it specific contacts or groups.

The changes don’t end there. Skype is also putting a greater emphasis on chat. The entire messaging experience has been given a fresh coat of paint, with lots of vibrant colors and gradients. Users can now react to individual messages with emojis — and those reactions extend to video calls as well.

Speaking of video calls, they haven’t been left behind. Callers can now participate with fun, real-time animations that take up their entire share of the user’s screen. And Microsoft has big plans for Skype’s signature feature going forward, too. In the future, callers will be able to play games and watch streaming services together, according to TechCrunch.

Finally, Skype hasn’t missed the craze surrounding bots, and much like Facebook Messenger, it’s adding its own AI-powered companions. Of course you can expect Cortana to play a big role, but down the line Skype should support a variety of services and brands through its Find panel.

Microsoft says Find makes Skype “infinitely searchable.” Users can access anything from GIFs to baseball tickets through the app’s search bar, and seamlessly integrate those results into their conversations.

The new Skype will launch first on Android, rolling out over the coming weeks, and then iOS support will follow. Finally, Windows and Mac PCs should receive an update in a few months’ time.

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