Skip to main content

Microsoft makes Skype for Web available to all users in the U.S. and U.K.

skype for web beta gets global rollout
Skype hasn’t lived on the Web for long — the browser-based client has only been in beta for a few months — but Microsoft’s deemed it ready for a larger subset of users. Starting today, folks in the U.S. and U.K. can host Skype calls, video conferences, and instant messaging sessions without having to install a full client.

Skype for Web, if you’re unfamiliar, essentially mirrors the desktop Skype experience. It syncs your contacts and conversations, and notifies you of new incoming instant messages, audio, or video calls across browser windows.

Getting it up and running is simpler in theory than in practice, unfortunately. You’ll need to use one of the support web browsers, which at launch include Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, and install a browser plug-in. All other platforms (most notably Chrome OS) only support text-based messaging for now.

Thankfully, Microsoft’s already working to address those limitations. The Skype team’s building a Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) version of Skype for Web that’ll eliminate the plug-in requirement, Microsoft’s Jonathan Watson revealed in a blog post. And the web-baed client will expand to more countries in the coming weeks.

The transition to the Web might be interpreted as the incumbent Skype’s answer to platform-agnostic competitors like Google Hangouts, but Watson says its ultimately about convenience. “Skype for Web is perfect if you normally use Skype on your mobile, but want to quickly get to your calls and IMs on a bigger screen,” or if “you’re sitting at a Windows or Mac computer in an internet café or hotel that doesn’t already have Skype downloaded,” he writes.

The plug-in requirement makes using Skype for Web on the sorts of locked-down machines you find at public libraries and hotel business rooms a tough proposition, but given the rapidity of developments thus far, it’s a safe bet that a fully-featured web client isn’t too far off.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. According to a pair of new reports, both nations are hard at work on developing technology for carrying out future underwater data-gathering surveillance missions, without any risk to human personnel.

In the United States, Boeing recently beat out Lockheed Martin for a $46.7 million U.S. Navy contract to build an undersea Orca robot sub. Boeing had previously won a contract to build four more of these Orcas, which translates to a total contract value of $274.4 million.

Read more
Microsoft calls out U.S. government for bad mapping of broadband data access
comcast fastest internet false advertising att airgig multi gigabit microwaves

As homes across the United States becomes ever so more connected via tablets, laptops and smart devices, access to fast broadband internet has become a big issue. The FCC currently maintains that only 25 million Americans don't have access to broadband internet, but Microsoft is now challenging the number. The company is claiming that more than half of the U.S. population -- or 162.8 million people -- do not use the internet at the broadband speed of 25 Mbps.

According to Microsoft, the discrepancy between its own anonymized data and the FCC data is due to ways that the FCC collects data for broadband mapping. First, Microsoft claims that the form 477 sent by ISPs to the FCC to help collect broadband data is too broad. A simple "yes" answer to the "providing or could … without an extraordinary commitment of resources provide broadband service to an area" question on the form is used to indicate if an area of the U.S. is covered by broadband internet. Second, Microsoft holds that the FCC's data on broadband access is not location specific. For instance, if one person has access to broadband, the entire block is counted as having service.

Read more
Microsoft’s $480M contract with U.S. military will equip soldiers with Hololens
microsoft posts tutorial creating terminator hud using hololens

Microsoft is neck-and-neck with Apple in the contest to be the world’s most valuable publicly traded technology company, and it just got a nice revenue boost, courtesy of the U.S. military. A new contract, valued at $480 million, means that the Redmond, Washington, tech giant will soon be equipping American soldiers with its augmented reality Hololens technology.

The two-year contract could see the military purchase up to 100,000 headsets. While it’s not clear exactly how these will be used, a government description of the program claims they will, “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.” However, another suggestion is that they will be employed primarily as a training tool, allowing soldiers to engage in “25 bloodless battles before the first battle.” This latter use sounds similar to the way that AR and VR tech is currently used in some military settings to let army physicians to practice procedures in virtual warzones, prior to entering the real thing.

Read more