Skype’s Number Game


Skype came out some data today, trying to give a sense of what’s up with one of the most hyped brands in the world. The company says so far it has passed 150 million downloads and 50 million “registered Skype Names.” These numbers really don’t amount to anything much if you ask me. It doesn’t tell you how many people have registered two or more names. The numbers don’t tell you how many are paying customers. In other words, pure FUD. I am sorry they have to do a better job of disclosing their user information.

Carlo is right when he says, “Part of the Skhype mystique is that the company’s more keen to pump how many times its software’s been downloaded rather than how many actual users it has.” It would have been a metric that made sense back in the 1990s, but not anymore.

Stuart Henshall, the man behind ultra-fine Skype Journal is the go-to guy on Skype, and in an email he wrote, “My guess is between two and three names for every ID. Smart people have registered multiple ID’s already. The 150 million is just a fiction and we all know it.” Here is his take on the numbers, where he writes, “Skype added only 10% in the last three months.” Stuart had pieced together a report back in May 2005 which showed that the company’s growth was slowing.

I managed to get my hands on some data which shows that the growth might be “really” slowing down, and that is perhaps one of the reasons Skype is out shopping itself. For instance, active users dropped 19% from April to May 2005 in the US, while France and Brazil had no growth during that time. UK and Germany grew at low single digit levels for that time frame. The overall active user base for Skype grew between 35%-to-50% from Q2 2004 through Q1 2005, but in the Q2 the numbers dropped to around 7%. Q3 is showing similar downward trend. Stuart explained that the declines happen in the summer months because schools/colleges are closed and lot of students are not getting on Skype. Still, even if you takes those numbers with a pinch of salt, its clear that the mega-growth days are over. And as I said earlier, this is as good a time for Skype to find a buyer.


Mary B. Winfield

Well, I can agree with you on the “download data” perspective – I happen to be of one of their users who has two Skype ids (and Skype Outs) – I had to send them a separate support request to add more Skype-Out dollars for my primary account and have them do a manual transaction.

If you are a Skype Out user and you select the link that directs your browser session to “ADD MORE SKYPE OUT TIME” (buying more via Euro-currency) you get a red flagged error message that says “You are limitted to one Skype Transaction at a time and will be given more opportunity to add Skype Out $$$$ before you run out”.

That is nonsense.

First of all, they are using safeguards to purchase Skype out and Skype in or Skype Voicemail.

Using Skype is a convenience for me when I travel on business and don’t want to risk having expensive roaming charges to my TMobile number (like in Canada as I am a US TMobile customer) and want decent sound quality.

My Vonage router is an option for calling, however, not all hotels have Ethernet RJ45 jacks in their rooms (these hotels are tending to go Wireless 802.11b|g and guest rooms don’t have any RJ45 jacks). So? My option is Skype and it works very nicely when my Compaq EVO N800V Pentium 4 2.0ghz notebook with 1GB RAM is connected to an internet session in 802.11G mode (54Mbps or108Mbps depending on whether or not the hotel’s router/access point can support my D-Link AG650’s Turbo mode). To save on Mobile phone roaming charges, Skype became a good viable alternative and my satisfaction with their sound quality and also other user tools is a good satisfaction. Calling between Canada and the US for .02 (less than 2 cents per minute) is significantly less than 40 cents per minutes roaming from TMobile using Rogers.

I certainly hope that Skype realizes that it has corporate users like myself who benefit from its technology and will not treat us like “children” when we want to purchase additional Skype out.

Your Fellow Technology Buddy,

Mary W. in NYC

Jeff Bonforte

Personally, even the number of “online” people is massively inflated. Consider that Skype auto-connects when you login your computer and sits on in the background. How many people that are logged in that are actually making and receiving calls is the real “active” users. So most everything about Skype’s numbers are inflated.

The number I find more interesting is the number of minutes they have on the network, but even that number has been taken off, because it really gives competitors a sense of their growth.

Jesse Kopelman

To me, the # of users online you see in the bottom right of your Skype window is the only number to care about. As always, the debate is how many of those do you keep if you start charging.


I believe Skype’s value currently is primarily in the business sector. Tracking the consumer market for this kind of thing is like measuring the wind, and ordinary folks could give a flip about spending a dime on Skype services. A business customer is a more loyal customer and spends on added value.

How many business are they adding? Bigger question – when is Skype going to target a new product package to businesses?

Drew Robertson


The $3billion Skype valuation floated a few weeks ago set off a wave of furious number crunching. I think we are looking too hard at how much Skype is worth. It’s worth more to a deadended telco than a DIY-place like Google. Or how many downloads Skype has had. I don’t think even Skype has a good handle on their user base. For example, they just starting emailing their users to see how they like Skype. This week!

We should be most interested in figuring how big is the entire VoIP/IM/P2P/etc business today and how much bigger will it grow. That would include Skype and AOL/MSN/Yahoo Voice and all the SIP providers as well as the other P2P Voipers like Stanaphone and Wavigo and the Vonages and Lingos and the international calling card companies and why not the old telcos. Put em all together and let’s find out what is the total market today? How much larger can it get? If the total market is large and the potential market is enormous then the question becomes whether Skype will be one of the survivors. If they are, then this debate in 2005 will be forgotten. If they aren’t, then Skype’ll be forgotten. I think they will be one of the survivors…somehow..someway.

Back in 2002 (post-Bubble), who would have figured that a search company would be worth $80 billion?

Om Malik

well since they put the data on their front page, maybe it makes sense to be more accurate. or why do it in the first place?


“I am sorry they have to do a better job of disclosing their user information.” – Why? Aren’t they a private company and can choose to release or not release whatever information they decide?

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