The rumors about a new release of Skype have been hitting the online community for a short time now. Even our own Om Malik tried to hit up Niklas Zennstrom from Skype at the mobile discussion at the Web 2.0 conference to sneak in a few questions, but he managed to make a sneaky escape. Nonetheless, Skype released version 3.0 this morning. Unfortunetly for Mac fans worldwide, this demo is only available as a Windows download. Big changes in the new version? Bug fixes and interface changes to make it much more user friendly.
The new Skype interface has changed slightly. However, the 18.9 MB application download is a lot cleaner and easier to use. Toolbars have been adjusted, and smartened up, and the tabs have been redesigned to make usage easier and most of all, quicker. The Contacts tab has been adjusted slightly to enable for locating contacts quickly. Another quick contact feature Skype has built in includes typing in the fist few letters of a contacts name for fast contact, instead of scrolling through your list.The tabs in Skype are also bigger and cleaner, and the integration of contact cards makes it easier to start and end both calls and chats. Instead of being hidden and out of the way, the Hold and Mute buttons are easier to see and use. Skype has also made it easier to mute a microphone, add a person to a call, activate a webcam, and adjust sound settings. Katie Fehrenbacher over at GigaOm mentions the plug-ins for Firefox and IE that turn phone numbers on web sites into Skype buttons, allowing users to click-to-call. In the Chat option, a new toolbar has been designed, making it easier to add friends, bookmarks, and host public chats. There is also an option to beautify your Skype application with some designer wallpaper.
Skypecasting is an interesting new feature that will surely garner a ton of attention. Skypecasting enables people to post a link in a website or a blog that when clicked, will link the user straight to a public chat room. You can choose to add to the conversation, or just chill out and listen. The potentials for creating cheap “shows” here for your areas of interest are huge.
The Extras area is an area that I was not really aware of before, but was available for developers. The Extras are a way developers can write extras for the Skype interface that enhances its functions. Skype Extras has some cool extras that can be added to the application.
Overall, the new Skype 3.0 Windows Beta has added in some nice cleaner user interface design and functionality improvements. Being that Skype 3.0 is still in Beta, more changes and additions are sure to pop up, and maybe even the Mac crowd will get their own version. Make sure to check out Katie’s views on the new Skype over at GigaOM.
What are your thoughts on the new Skype 3.0? Hit or miss? Are they missing out on some new features you were hoping to see added?