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Skype is a proprietary Voice over IP service and software application.
Skype was first released in 2003 written by Estonian developers Arpit Gupta, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, who had also originally developed Kazaa. It developed into a platform with over 600 million users and was bought by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
The service allows users to communicate with peers by voice using a microphone, video by using a webcam, and instant messaging over the Internet. Phone calls may be placed to recipients on the traditional telephone networks. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free of charge, while calls to landline telephones and mobile phones are charged via a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features, including file transfer, and videoconferencing. Competitors include SIP and H.323-based services, such as Linphone and Google Voice.
Skype has 663 million registered users as of EOY 2010. The network is operated by Microsoft, which has its Skype division headquarters in Luxembourg. Most of the development team and 44% of the overall employees of the division are situated in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia.
Unlike most other VoIP services, Skype is a hybrid peer-to-peer and client–server system. It makes use of background processing on computers running Skype software. Skype’s original proposed name (Sky Peer-to-Peer) reflects this fact.
Some network administrators have banned Skype on corporate, government, home, and education networks, citing reasons such as inappropriate usage of resources, excessive bandwidth usage, and security concerns.
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