Skype CEO Outlines Platform Ambitions, Hiring Plans

s010_ga_c03.jpgSkype, with its spinout from eBay complete and its legal troubles with founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis settled, is looking to the future, where it wants to become a ubiquitous real-time communications platform. And that means thinking about the next-generation Skype architecture and hiring a lot of smart people, CEO Josh Silverman said in a conversation earlier today. “We are looking to hire engineers,” he said. “Especially those who want to live in Estonia.” In addition, the company is planning to ramp up its Stockholm (Sweden) office. “We are going to be ramping our presence in the Bay Area as well,” Silverman said. Skype currently has 700 employees and wants to hire engineers and product managers to help it expand as it seeks to transform itself from just a voice-based service to a multi-feature real-time communications platform.

“While Europe is going to remain our base, California is going to be a big presence for us,” Silverman said. Skype recently added SIP Guru Jonathan Rosenberg as its chief technology strategist, and he is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company had built up a substantial team in the Bay Area over the past few months as it was trying to build a route around the JoltID technology. With that need gone, the company now has enough engineering talent to start transforming itself into a platform.

“We want Skype to be embedded in more and more devices, and we want to offer our APIs for developers to embed into their applications,” Silverman said. That is going to be a tough sell considering the company’s history of throwing its developers under the bus, the most recent example being the Skype Extras disaster. Silverman was candid enough to admit that the Skype Extras program wasn’t working. “APIs were hard and the extras-software uptake was low, and it is important for us to have a great platform that is built for success,” he said. “So starting off a bad platform wasn’t a good idea.”

When I pressed Silverman on the embedded ambitions, he outlined a future where Skype would be embedded in connected game consoles, televisions and video phones. Skype could be embedded into different software offerings as well. The company wants to be a big player in the enterprise, but knows that it can’t do it all by itself. “We need to open up our platform in order to expand it,” he said, “Our aspiration is ubiquity.”

Silverman declined to offer any specific dates (and details) on when Skype will launch a platform for others to leverage. One thing is for sure, Skype can pose a serious challenge to some of the upstarts such as Ribbit, TringMe and Twilio that are all trying to make it easy for application developers to embed voice-related functionality into their offerings. Skype’s ubiquity — over 500 million subscribers — makes it a fearsome agent of change in the Internet-based communications arena. (Related post: “How Skype Can Quickly and Easily Become a Social Network (and Clean Facebook’s Clock))

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Silverman about the next generation of Skype architecture, and he said the company was working on it. “It will work with SIP; it will have P2P, but we won’t come to it with a religion,” he said. And that includes offering Skype via a browser and making it even more savvy about video conferencing.

Photo of Josh Silverman courtesy of Phil Wolf via Flickr. Skype desktop photo courtesy of IPVEO.

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