Skype released a new beta version for WindowsÂ a few days ago, and it includesÂ a newÂ feature called SkypeFind. SkypeFind allows users to search for businesses, add in new business listings, and edit existing listings. It also allows users to review/comment on businesses, following the trend of other online directory and social media sites.
If you’re unaware of what Skype is, it’s a Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (“VOIP”) telephone system, allowing you to make calls through your PCÂ over yourÂ internet connection. Since Skype service ridesÂ on the internet, the costs are typically much lower than other phone service plans, particularly for long distance.
Skype’s new directory includes a green icon depicting a phone receiver with each listing. When clicked, a VOIP call is made to the business’s phone number, using Skype service. There’s also enhanced support so that one could spawn a chat session with one’s friends/contacts in order to get recommendations for service providers. For instance, if you searched for a French cafe in your city and didn’t find one, you could text your friends for suggestions.
Naturally, tying a phone service together with a directory search is a strong combination, bringing a high likelihood of successful adoption with their users. Currently, the service is unmonetized — i.e. “ads-free”.
SkypeFind has been launched with no contents, expecting their user base to build sufficient listings to make it useful. I think this is a brave move, though I think it might’ve been better for their users if they had launched with some level of basic data.
It’s clear that they may introduce directory ads in this space at some point in the future. It would be natural for them to partner with an existing advertising service for this purpose — such as Google or an online directory. Partnering would allow them to simply embed ads into user results without requiring the building of ad hosting/management systems. Leveraging others’ infrastructure and existing advertiser base could help them to monetize more rapidly than building everything from the ground up.
I can’t help wondering if Skype couldn’t turn the equation upside down for their advertisers, if they did keep the ads in-house. For instance, I bet that advertisers would be willing to pay the phone connection costs whenever Skype users called them. And, this VOIP environment is a natural fit for Pay-for-Call style advertising models. Actually, wouldn’t it be cool if advertiser calls were sufficient to underwrite the costs of all users’ Skype accounts? This sounds like a very Google-like business plan.
SUGGESTION: if any Skype personnel are reading this, I have a suggestion – why not introduce an interface on your site to allow local businesses to add in their own basic information? I’d expect this sort of an interface might be pretty easy to tack on, so it seems like a no-brainer to me.
It’ll be interesting to watch what other features they may add onto this local information service.
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