Among this year’s tech releases, we have what’s been referred to as “the new generation of Skype.” The app’s latest updates include group chats, typing notifications and the option to edit photos with doodles, emojis and a black bar of text.
But despite all this “new,” headlines are reading, “Microsoft reboots Skype with new features aimed at Facebook, Snapchat,” “Microsoft’s new Skype redesign is a radical change that looks like Snapchat,” “Skype takes on Snapchat and Instagram with stories, chatbots, and more.” You get the picture.
They’re not really producing anything new. The articles aren’t talking about a new and improved Skype; they’re talking about Skype in relation to the pre-existing apps its new format emulates.
In Skype’s defense, they were beginning to fall into obsolescence, and it may have been time for a change. And after all, the copycat game has worked before (look at how quickly Insta-stories have become a staple for the average Millennial). But even those became mundane: “It’s Skype’s answer to Snapchat Stories, which has already been copied by Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.” (Independent.co.uk)
In the process of keeping up with the Joneses, Skype is diverging from what originally made the app useful – the one thing it had to offer that other apps didn’t. As iMessage is to texting and Snapchat is to sending disappearing photos, Skype was immediately associated with video chatting from mobile or desktop.
Articles briefly mention backend fixes regarding the original purpose, like improved usability with larger screens, but Skype chose not to focus on highlighting those types of changes. (This may have something to do with the fact that Skype has released many updated versions, which probably isn’t helping their case with this one either.) Instead, in an attempt to keep up with the Millennial market, they honed in on what young people are already using in other programs.
Now this isn’t a vote for stagnancy in a company – don’t get me wrong. Change can be a very good thing, but it’s a tricky yet important balancing act to make those updates without losing the identity of the company and its key purpose.
In the end, if Skype truly wants to attract users who will stick around, it needs unique features, not just colorful, regenerated ones from other apps.