Skype is a software program developed by the creators of the peer-to-peer (p2p) program, Kazaa, which allows its users to speak, make video calls, send messages and transfer data files through the use of computers connected to the internet. Unlike p2p file sharing programs, however, Skype focuses more on the merits of sharing voice communication and social interaction rather than swapping or file distribution. Skype software is proprietary but is free for download and can be installed on multiple platforms - Windows, Linux, MacIntosh OS and even in Pocket PC (Wikipedia, 2006).
Unlike other VOIP softwares available, Skype uses peer-to-peer internet service. The advantage of utilizing a p2p model instead of the traditional and centralized client-server setup is that the network distribution can advance rapidly without the need for cost-intensive and highly complex infrastructure. Due to its decentralized model that uses nodes, Skype is able to bypass frequent firewall and network address translation problems associated with most centralized architecture (Wikipedia, 2006).
The very foundation of its usage is to provide its users free online communication with each other, as well as the capability to reach other channels, such as traditional landline and cellular phones. It is also the fist VOIP program to propose the idea of free voice conferencing anywhere in the world (Wikipedia, 2006).
Currently, making voice calls to land or mobile phones using Skype is a whole lot cheaper than making calls directly from established mobile or landline systems. To illustrate, a usual call rate ranges from 30 to 45 cents a minute as compared to 2 cents charged by Skype for every minute of voice call usage. In addition, voice calls from pc to pc are always free of charge (Wikipedia, 2006).
There are several notable drawback s with using Skype. In terms of technological impediments, although growth projections for Skype users is on an upward trend, many Internet users are still not aware of the technologies that Skype offers. For get the best out of software, one would need broadband connection speeds. Security-wise, many institutions have not warmed up to the technology because of security and nodal/network issues (van Drimmelen, 2006)