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Summary:

Niklas so wants to be Bill…. I wonder how he is taking the smack down from Bill Zennstrom, who recently sold his Skype Internet phone service to Ebay for $2.6 billion, says that Skype has been in business for 3-1/2 years… and in that time has […]

Niklas so wants to be Bill…. I wonder how he is taking the smack down from Bill

Zennstrom, who recently sold his Skype Internet phone service to Ebay for $2.6 billion, says that Skype has been in business for 3-1/2 years… and in that time has signed up 75 million users. I’m floored by the sheer scale of that, until Gates brings us back to earth. He jumps in and asks, How many of the 75 million are paying customers? Zennstrom doesn’t say (or mumbles it out in a way I can’t catch) but their exchange launches a terrific conversation about building free Web products that generate truly enormous user bases then monetize them.

Update: Here is a link to the chat in Davos. You can also download it as a podcast.

  1. Bill has a good point, but how many paying customers does Google have? Bill’s not used to the new business model, rather old TV model, of network advertising. This assumes Skype someday ventures into ad-based revenue. Which seems obvious. I too question the viability of this entire free phone calling. Looks like a dot com bust for many. Few survive that economy.

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  2. Clarification… this economy is no stranger to the ISP portals, but it’s a losing battle for a Gizmo standalone. BTW, when is Gizmo going to get bought?

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  3. The business model based on free to user, advertiser supported service, has been in use since day one. Today’s challenge is to keep this model alive. More and more access is moving to the inefficient user pay model which is very high overhead. But no service can be provided for “FREE”. Ebay just purchased the most expensive e-mail list ever sold.

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  4. Jesse Kopelman Monday, January 30, 2006

    How many people pay directly for Windows? They have it because it came installed on their PC.

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  5. I second that Jesse. My first take on that comment was how many willing, paying customers does Bill have.

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