Skype originally wanted to be like Fon, but had to solve VoIP first

Jaan Tallinn

Microsoft’s Skype may be the world’s biggest VoIP network, but the founding team originally set out to offer a completely different product, according to Jaan Tallinn, who was part of the engineering team behind both Skype and KaZaA. “The initial idea was to develop a Wifi-sharing network, and then provide various ‘telecom-like’ services on top of that,” Tallinn revealed during an AMA on Reddit Friday.

Tallinn likened those plans to Fon, the crowdsourced WiFi network that encourages consumers to share their hotspot with others. The idea was to build out a shared network infrastructure, and then piggyback TV and telephony services on top of that, he said. However, there were two problems with that plan:

“We were in the midst of lawsuits with major content producers after having done KaZaa, so we dropped the TV idea, and (…) we found out that all the existing VoIP products out there at the time sucked (mostly due to their inability to work through NAT).”

That’s why his team, which was led by the Skype and KaZaA co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, decided to instead put its energies into building a better VoIP offering, which ended up becoming Skype – but not after a subtle name change. Said Tallinn:

“It was originally called Skyper, but Skyper.net was taken, so we dropped the ‘r’.”

Check out the entire AMA over at Reddit.

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