Ask anyone what they think Skype is and they’ll tell you it’s a handy way of keeping in touch with distant loved ones. Others might say they use its IM functionality and video chat for business purposes.
What they almost certainly won’t say is that it’s in the same social media family as Snapchat, Facebook and co.
But Microsoft apparently wants to change that.
In an apparent effort to emulate messaging rivals such as Snapchat, Messenger and Whatsapp, the revamp (Microsoft says the app is “being rebuilt from the ground up”) introduces a raft of new features that will leave the app almost unrecognisable.
The overall look and feel has been freshened up, and the camera – all important in this smartphone age – is a single swipe away. Personal networks are the focus of the revamp, with Microsoft wanting to make it easier for Skype users to connect with the people, services and brands that are most relevant to them.
The most eye-catching of the new additions is a Stories-style feature that Microsoft is calling ‘Highlights’. Users can take a photo or video, which they can then embellish with text and stickers before sharing with individuals, in group chats or posted straight to Highlights.
Where Skype’s version differs from Snapchat Stories is that Highlights are available to view for a week rather than 24 hours, and are only visible to people who ‘follow’ you rather than everyone in your contacts.
Your followers can respond to your Highlights by using Facebook-style reactions, such as hearts, thumbs up, surprised faces and a range of other emotions.
Another major roll-out is an expanded range of bots and add-ins. Microsoft wants Skype users to be able to connect with businesses and brands from within the app, with available bots and add-ins including YouTube, Cortana, Expedia, Stubhub and Giphy.
For example, if you and your friends are discussing a forthcoming sporting event in a group chat, you can pull in details from the Stubhub bot into the chat and book tickets. Similar with the Expedia bot if you are discussing airline tickets.
Search has also been given a major overhaul. Powered by Bing, the new Find feature enables users to search the web, browse images or view local information such as restaurants and cinemas.