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A major development in the VoIP world today: Skype 3.0 Beta has been released.
One of the major additions is the new platform for the extension of Skype by third parties. This new platform is called “Extras Manager”.
There are around sixteen Extras in total, but you can expect this number to grow fairly rapidly. We are proud that Skype have chosen to include our product Skylook in the first Skype Extras Manager release.
Here is what the Extras Manager looks like:
Skype has been very strong on third party support for quite some time now. Around two years ago they released the Skype Public API, providing the ability for third parties to hook into most of Skype’s features. Since then they have improved the API and built other mechanisms on top of this, including the easier-to-program Skype4Com, and now the Extras Manager.
We see Skype’s emphasis on nurturing a third party developer ecosystem as one of its key strengths.
Extras Manager’s strengths (compared to the previously existing APIs) are:
- It provides much greater exposure for third party extensions to Skype
- It allows much deeper integration than has been possible previously – with the ability to add menu options to Skype’s menus and embed functionality so that it feels “as one” with the Skype user interface
Skype 3.0 Beta is a free download from the Skype web site but is currently only recommended for experienced/advanced users. If you rely on Skype for your day-to-day activities it may be best to hold off for a while.
The Extras Manager is available from the “Tools > Do More” menu item in Skype. NOTE: When you first run Skype 3.0, this menu item may be greyed out. If it is, just wait a few seconds and click the “Tools” menu again. Extras Manager items are retrieved from a web server and can take a few seconds to appear.
When you run an Extra for the first time, it is retrieved from Skype’s servers and run locally on your PC. Subsequent runs are, of course, run directly from the files previously copied to your PC.
All in all, a very interesting and compelling release, and that’s just the Beta! Exciting times ahead for Skype and their growing third-party army.
What is VoIP?
VoIP means making “phone” calls using the Internet to transfer your voice instead of traditional phone cables.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.
In layman’s terms, your Voice is converted to ones and zeros and sent over the Internet to someone else, and vice-versa. (The Protocol part makes up the commonly used term “Internet Protocol”, which means the rules and mechanisms via which data is transmitted over the Internet).
Because there’s only the Internet between you and the person you are talking to, there are often no charges over and above your Internet Service Provider fees. Once your voice is converted to data and put out on the ‘net, the ‘net doesn’t discriminate – it’s all data and so there’s no reason to charge you extra.
The term VoIP can also cover situations where only one end of the call is on the Internet and the other end is on a traditional phone. In this case there are generally charges involved as the traditional phone network has to be used to do this.
Advantages of VoIP over traditional phones
- It’s generally free for pure VoIP calls, and cheap for international calls to traditional phones
- On pure VoIP calls (where no traditional phone is involved), the call can sound a lot “higher-fidelity” than a traditional phone
- Natural tie-in with many PC applications (e.g. contact managers)
- The Internet has no “Quality of service” built in, so on some calls quality can be poor (although generally if you and the callee both have good broadband connections this doesn’t tend to be a problem)
- Messing around with a headset on your PC can be a pain
- Generally can’t be used to make emergency calls
- Sometimes can’t be used to call freecall numbers (e.g. 1800-).