Skype is ending its desktop API from December 2013 – does it affect you?

 

If you’re not a developer you may not have seen the recent updates from Skype about the changes to its desktop API which come into effect in December 2013. If you’re not a developer and worried this change may affect you, here’s an overview of what the changes mean.

What is the desktop API?

The Skype desktop API is an interface that allows third parties to develop applications that communicate with Skype. This could be a headset that is designed specifically to interact with Skype features, or an add-on software tool that builds on the chat function allowing for greater collaboration. It works in the same way as the iPhone or Android app stores where you can download or buy additional software that interacts with your device.

How will the change affect third party applications?

Shutting down the desktop API means that third party applications will no longer be able to interact with Skype and may subsequently stop working properly or at all. If you use any of these products or apps, it’s best to check in with Skype as to whether they will continue working and make alternative arrangements if you rely on them heavily.

Why has Skype done this?

The main reason Skype has given is the inconsistent experience for users across platforms. The current desktop API does not support mobile development and this is an area Skype are keep to improve. It has announced it will be launched updated software that provides its best functions across all platforms, so not matter whether you’re using Skype on your desktop, mobile or tablet the experience will be the same. It seems that, rather than rely on third parties to develop extra functionality, Skype will focus on developing its own software that will create a much better tool for the end user without the need to use bolt-ons.

Is the closure of the desktop API a bad thing?

This very much depends on who you ask. If you talk to a developer of third party Skype apps then yes it is a very bad thing and there are plenty of devs complaining about the changes. For some who have not planned for it ahead of time, it means the end of their main source of income so it could be the end of some careers or even whole companies.

How will this affect the end user?

Microsoft have estimated that around 1 million users may be affected by the change out of the several hundred million users who use Skype. For everyone else, the change will not affect you at all. If you think you are using third party applications (you should know if you’ve downloaded extra bits and bobs) then it would be a good idea to find an alternative now before the changes come into effect. Some of the more commonly used apps include software that allows you record voice calls and tools that allow for interactive collaboration during voice and video chat.

Depending on what Skype have in store for future developments, it may be a step forward for users who could see their favourite apps being incorporated directly into Skype rather than having to rely on third party apps that can be clunky and buggy. Time will tell if Skype has burnt its bridges with devoted fans over this change but it seems Microsoft is keep to gain more control over Skype and the end user experience.

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