Skype Review

Thinking about choosing Skype as an Internet-based communications solution?  Here are some points about the program that you should consider.


  • Simple to get started — as one of the more basic voice-over-Internet services on the market, it's fairly easy to install Skype on your computer and set up an account, even if you aren't that tech-savvy.

  • Reach out to the world for free — most of Skype's communication services don't cost any money to use, even if they cross international borders.  That means even if your family's halfway across the world, you can still get in touch with them using Skype, and you won't have to worry about long-distance charges!

  • Use text, phone, or video chat — choose the way you want to communicate: send quick text messages back and forth, talk on the phone, or have a full face-to-face conversation with real-time video.  Why just hear the voices of your (grand)kids and family members when you can see their smiling faces?

  • Easy to share your stuff — you can send computer files over Skype, so you can share important business documents with colleagues, or maybe just some cute pet pictures with your loved ones.

  • Stay in touch in other places — you can connect Skype to your other Internet accounts, such as ones on Microsoft Live and Facebook, so that you can send and receive Skype communication through any of these places.


  • You need to be on the Internet — even though Skype includes a phone service, you have to be connected to the Internet and logged into your Skype account to use any of Skype's features.

  • Your contacts need Skype too — usually, if you want to contact someone using Skype, they must also have Skype installed and be logged into their account, and you must know their Skype contact information.

  • Certain features aren't free — some of Skype's features, such as using it to send text messages to people's mobile phones, or allowing Skype to forward phone calls from others on Skype to your home or mobile phone, require a paid subscription or purchased “Skype credits”. 

  • Technical difficulties — phone and video calls require a microphone and/or webcam (though they're pretty inexpensive and come built-in to many modern computers).  People also occasionally have various issues with using Skype, such as having poor voice call quality, having the video freeze up or not work at all, or being unable to call anyone.

The Bottom Line: 8/10

Skype is a good basic way to communicate in various different ways over the Internet.  It's relatively easy to set up and log into, and most of its essential features don't cost money, even if you call someone in another country.  The features you do have to pay for aren't all that expensive, either.  You can also use Skype to exchange computer files, and integrate Skype with other Internet and social media accounts for even greater ease of connectivity.

Though Skype is relatively inexpensive, in this case at least, you get what you pay for.  You have to be connected to the Internet and logged into your account to use Skype at all.  Also, the person you're trying to contact has to have Skype installed on their computer and be logged into their account, and you must know their Skype contact information, in order to use most of Skype's free features.  Finally, Skype doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to ensuring that its services work; most of them are free, after all.

The upshot of all this is that Skype is a low-cost, low-risk way to keep in touch with friends, co-workers, and family over the Internet, even across great distances.  Just don't expect too many fancy bells and whistles from it.

Is Skype Free and How Much Does Skype Cost?

So far in this course, we've given you an introduction to what Skype is and how it works, as well as addressed how to stay safe, private, and secure while using Skype. Now, with all of the neat things that it can do, there has to be some sort of cost to using it, right? Well, Skype is pretty close to being completely free, but it does show you advertisements, and there are a few relatively minor (and totally optional) features  that can cost you money. We'll explain more below.

So, is Skype really free to use?

Skype is MOSTLY free to use. It costs you no money to download and install the program, create an account, or use the majority of Skype's features. However, some features cost money to use, the bulk of which involve using Skype to communicate with a landline phone or mobile phone.

Let's put it this way: Skype has so many free features that it's easier just to list the ones that AREN'T free, which are as follows:

  • Using it to call someone's landline or mobile phone

  • Forwarding calls from Skype to your landline or mobile phone

  • Sending text messages to a mobile phone

  • Using Skype to easily access Wi-Fi locations in certain areas

  • Purchasing a "Skype Number" to let people call you on Skype from a landline or mobile phone

Everything else that can be done on Skype, besides these actions, is free-of-charge!

How much does Skype cost?

The cost of Skype's paid features varies depending on what service you use, how long you use it, and where you use it. For example, if you're using it to send or receive calls or text messages between you and a landline or mobile phone, you will be charged long-distance telecommunication fees as determined by Skype.

To find out the cost rates for communication between Skype and phones in other countries:

  1. Go to in your web browser.  In the menu at the top of the page, move your mouse cursor over Prices to make a drop-down menu appear, and then click Rates.

    How to check Skype calling rates

  2. Click inside the box labeled "Search for the Country/Region You Want to Call" and type in the place that you're going to be calling from Skype most often. Then, click one of the suggestions that appears in the drop-down box to select it.

    How to select the region that you want to view Skype calling rates for

  3. The window below the box will change to display the different rates for using Skype Credit (more on that in a minute), sending text messages, or making calls by using the different subscription plans available for that region. You can click the drop-down menu in the top-right corner to change the currency that the prices are calculated in.

    How to change the currency that the current Skype call rates are displaying in

Skype Credit

Instead of buying a region-specific monthly subscription plan of minutes, you also have the option of paying for Skype's non-free services as you use them. You can do so by using a currency called Skype Credit. The amount of Skype Credit that you'll spend when using one of its paid services depends on where you're sending a call or text message through Skype to, or where you're getting a call or text message through from.

You can buy different amounts of Skype Credit, depending on what currency you use. For a list, go to in your web browser, and click the drop-down menu underneath "Your Order" and select a new currency. The amount of credit that you can purchase will change accordingly.

How to buy Skype Credit


That's a quick overview of the potential costs associated with using Skype. As we demonstrated, there really isn't much that you need to pay for, and most of it just extends the already-formidable arsenal of features that you get on it for free. Basically, if you and the person you're trying to contact are both using Skype, then you don't have to worry about paying anything, no matter where in the world either of you are!

Is Skype Safe, Private, and Secure?

If you've read our primer on how Skype works, you know that you'll mostly be using Skype not through its website, but through its desktop program or mobile application. However, these still make use of the Internet in order to work, so you may have some questions about how safe and secure it really is. In this article, we'll discuss a few things that Skype does to help its users stay safe, private, and secure. We'll also outline a few things that you can do to maintain your safety and privacy while using Skype.

Is Skype private?

Skype is fairly private. You are in control of how much information you reveal about yourself. You can also decide who can or cannot add you as a contact, or communicate with you over Skype in any way. However, most people can at least find you if they know your Skype name or email address.

How secure is Skype?

Skype is indeed secure. It monitors users' activities to make sure they are who they say they are, and encrypts communications so that unauthorized parties can't eavesdrop on conversations. It also has secure payment systems in place, so you can safely use and store your credit card details.

Is Skype safe to use?

Skype is quite safe to use, as long as you take proper precautions against potential threats. For example, if someone suspicious tries to contact you, you can block them. You can even set it up to block all users not in your contacts list from communicating with you over Skype in any way.

The main thing to be careful of is suspicious users who may be running phishing scams. This usually involves contacting you out of the blue with a hyperlink to a suspicious website, or a computer file for you to download. Both of these things may give your computer a virus or malware program if you interact with them.

To be on the safe side, only use the software to communicate with people whom you know well or trust, particularly those whom you've met outside of Skype. Sometimes, this requires vigilance on your part, while at other times, certain settings can help you out. Here are five other suggestions for how to stay safe while using Skype.

5 tips for staying safe, private, and secure

1. Choose a strong password to protect your account.

The most basic way to stay safe on Skype is to lock your account with a strong password, so that nobody else can access your account and use Skype while pretending to be you. Use a password that is of significant length and consists of a combination of at least two of letters, numbers, and/or symbols.  Also make it something that you'll remember, but not easily guessable. For example, "baseball" is not a good password, but "b@$e8a77" is a significantly better password.

2. Be selective about what information you share on your profile.

When you look at your profile on the Skype program, you can see what parts of your profile are "Public" (anyone who finds you on Skype can see them), which ones can only be seen by your "Contacts," and which ones are "Private" (so that only you can see them). If you don't want certain people seeing certain information about you, then you don't have to enter it. Also, there are some information fields, highlighted in black, where you can choose who can see the information. Click them to choose between Contacts or Private.

Checking and changing how private your Skype profile info is

3. Adjust your privacy settings to determine who can contact you on Skype, and how.

In the Privacy category under the Privacy Settings sub-category, there are all sorts of ways to control how private Skype is for you. You can limit who can send you phone calls or instant messages to people in your "Contacts" list, and you can limit who can automatically send you video or a shared screen (without you having to approve it) to just your contacts, or nobody at all. You can choose how long the software keeps a record of your instant messages, and delete that record if you wish. 

You can also prevent Skype from showing your online status if you have your Skype information posted on the web somewhere, and you can disable "cookies" and "targeted advertising" (and delete the former) to stop the program from snooping on how you use the program in order to suggest doing things that you may not want to do, or to try to sell you things that you may not want.

4. Manage settings that let Skype do things automatically.

Skype lets you do certain things without having to approve them in order to streamline your experience, but this can leave you open to getting calls, messages, or computer files from suspicious — and potentially dangerous — people. Two particular settings can help with this.

First, under the Calls category and Call Settings sub-category of your "Settings" page, click Show Advanced Options, and disable the options to accept calls automatically and/or to automatically start a video chat (if possible) when you accept a call. This lets you control these things manually, so you can block a call or keep your camera off to hide who you are if you think you're being contacted by someone suspicious.

How to turn automatic call answering in Skype on or off

Second, under the I.M. and S.M.S. category and I.M. Settings sub-category of your "Settings" page, click Show Advanced Options, and disable the option to accept files sent to you automatically. This can prevent you from automatically downloading files from suspicious contacts, as these files may be infected with viruses.

How to turn automatic file downloads in Skype on or off

5. Block suspicious or abusive users.

If someone sends you an instant message or tries to call you, and you don't know who they are, you can block them. You can also block users who make repeated unwanted attempts to contact you. This prevents them from contacting you in any way through Skype.


That wraps up our look at issues of safety, privacy, and security on Skype.  We hope our advice has made you confident enough to try it; if it has, you can get started by learning how to download and install the Skype program.

What is Skype and How Does It Work?

For many people, staying in touch with friends and family who live a significant distance away used to be a challenging – and sometimes expensive – affair. Is my letter or card going to make it on time? What was their address?  How much will the postage be? What was their phone number? Do long-distance charges apply? Fortunately, the Internet has made these concerns largely a thing of the past. It's time for you to meet Skype, one of the simplest and least-expensive multi-function communication solutions on the Internet today.

So, what exactly is Skype?

Skype is a multi-mode communication tool that you can use on a desktop computer or mobile device.  Once you connect with people on Skype, you can communicate with them over the program for free via text, audio, video, and more.  You can also call people's phones by using Skype, but this costs money to do.

What you will see on the main screen of Skype

Where did Skype come from, and why is it so popular?

Skype got its start in Luxembourg in 2003, with the project headed by Janus Friis of Denmark and Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden. They teamed up with Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn of Estonia to create a peer-to-peer communication system over the Internet.

The initial name of the project was "sky peer-to-peer", which they shortened to "Skyper" and then eventually just "Skype".  Since then, ownership of Skype has changed hands a few times, from e-commerce pioneer eBay to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and eventually to computer giant Microsoft. Skype now works together with many of Microsoft's other products.

Skype is popular not only because it's easy to use, but also because there are a lot of useful things that you can do with it. Best of all, some methods of communicating that might cost you money elsewhere can usually be done for free, such as phone calls, or Internet-based video calls or conferences!

Want to give someone you know a written message? Just type what you want to say into Skype, and then send it! Want to chat with someone on the phone? Just find them on Skype and call them up! Want to send a computer file to someone? Just drop it into the program and wait for your colleague to download it! No need to worry about buying writing supplies, postage materials, text messaging plans, portable computer file storage, or long-distance phone plans – Skype has almost all of that covered!

How Skype works

The first thing to know is that you don't use it directly on the Skype website. Instead, it's a piece of software that you have to download and then install onto your computer or mobile phone. 

How to download Skype for your device of choice

Once you get Skype set up, you're going to need to create an account for it. In addition to your name, your email address, your country of origin, your primary language, and a password with which to protect your account, you'll also need to choose a Skype Name. This is how the majority of other  users will find and identify you on Skype. For further information, see our tutorial on how to create an account.

Once you have an account, one of the first things that you're going to want to do is connect with people you know on Skype. This lets you communicate with them in various ways for free! Just type their name, Skype Name, or email address, and Skype should find them (assuming, of course, that they use Skype, too). Then you can send them a contact request; if they accept it, presto!  You're connected!

How to request adding a Skype user as a contact

After you hook up with a few other people to use Skype together with, you can do all kinds of neat things. For example, you can use the text interface to swap text messages with your contacts, even with multiple people at once. You can also upload pictures for everyone to see, and even send computer files back and forth!

What you will see in the text message interface for Skype

If you'd like your communication to be a little more direct, though, then Skype can help you out there, too. If both you and the person you want to reach out to are both using it at the same time, then you can start a phone call together and not need to worry about long-distance charges!  Plus, you and your contact can share your computer screens with each other, or (if you have special cameras in your devices) talk face-to-face in a video call!

What you will see in the phone or video call interface for Skype

If you need to get in touch with more than one person at a time, you can also hold phone or video conference calls with multiple contacts at once! Plus, if a contact isn't available right at the moment, you can leave a recorded voice or video message for them to play back later.

One more thing to note: Skype works on your mobile devices, (such as smart phones or table computers)  too. That way, you can stay connected to the people who matter to you, no matter where you're headed.

What the Skype app on mobile devices looks like
(Image source: Skype via Google Play)

How much does Skype cost?

Most of the functions available on Skype don't cost any money to use. You don't have to pay money to download or install the program, or to set up an account. However, some features of Skype cost money to use, though they won't come into play in most cases. Skype also uses advertisements to support itself.

Skype's paid features usually have to do with using it to communicate with landline or mobile phones (or the other way around), especially between different countries. However, if everybody in the conversation is using Skype, then these fees are usually not an issue. If you're interested, we have a deeper look at how much Skype can cost.

Is Skype secure, private, and safe?

For the most part, Skype is secure. It oversees user activities to make sure that each interaction is between one or more unique, registered users and can't be eavesdropped on by outside parties. Skype also contains secure payment systems, so you can safely use your credit card to pay for its extra features.

Privacy is a bit of a trickier issue, as almost anyone who uses the service can find you through your name, Skype Name, or email address. However, you are in control of how much other information you put in your profile, and you always get to choose whether or not to accept anyone who reaches out to you as a contact. Even among your contacts, you get to choose if (and how) anyone can communicate with you. Just check out all of these privacy setting that you can adjust:

Privacy settings for Skype

Therefore, you should remain safe on Skype as long as you are smart about maintaining your privacy.  A good start to this is to adjust your account privacy settings as soon as you sign up. The majority of threats come from shady users trying to pull scams; they may sometimes even try to trick you into visiting websites or downloading computer files that are infected with viruses or malware. But if you stick to using Skype to communicate with people whom you know and trust, none of this should be a problem.

The advantages and disadvantages of using Skype

One of Skype's biggest draws is the amount of different ways that you can communicate using it: send text messages, swap computer files, have a phone call, get together on a video conference call, leave a voice or video message, and more! Another reason that people love Skype is that most of its services are free to use, and those that aren't are comparable in price to long-distance charges that you'd have to pay anyway if you were calling other countries. It is also one of the easiest VoIP services to set up, and its interface is very user-friendly.

Skype isn't perfect by any means, though. Although Skype is a program that runs on your desktop computer or mobile device, you still have to be connected to the Internet and logged into your account for it to work. This is true even for functions that you may not think would need the Internet, such as making phone calls. In addition, the people whom you want to get in touch with have to be using Skype (and not a different VoIP service) and logged into their accounts as well. If they aren't, you can still use Skype to call their regular phones, but this costs you money where it otherwise wouldn't. And Skype occasionally has issues with its features not working, or at least working poorly.

Skype's main competitors

Skype is probably one of the most well-known VoIP services out there, but there are plenty of others that have their own charms. Jitsi, for example, has even more privacy features than Skype, as well as noise-cancelling features to increase call quality, though it's somewhat more complicated to use than Skype.  Another popular choice is Google Hangouts, which works together with a lot of Google's other products, such as the Chrome web browser or the Gmail email client. ooVoo has some neat features, such as being able to watch YouTube videos during a call and being able to record a voice or video conversation. And one of Skype's biggest rivals is Viber, which has its own social network attached to it and never clogs up your user experience with annoying ads.

For an expanded list of services that compete with Skype, including information on why you may or may not want to use them instead of Skype, see our article on Skype alternatives.


That's a quick rundown of Skype and its main features! In the rest of our Skype course, we'll go over how to use its different functions in detail, such as how to send a text message, how to make a phone call, and how to start a video chat.