Liam – November 6, 2017

The holiday season always comes around too soon, way too fast for me. Just as I’m recovering from the stress of having to buy my wife, Kim, Christmas gifts that aren’t dull and useless or the wrong size, style or shape, it’s time to do it all over again. I’ve just never been a great gift-giver. Or even a good gift-giver. What I am good at around the holidays, however, is staying in touch with people. I owe some of that success to Skype.

Sometimes a Skype visit with friends and family over the holidays is the best gift of all.

If you’re not familiar with Skype by now, it’s probably because you live close to your family. (Hey, a little space never hurt anyone.) This technology allows you to place video and telephone calls to anyone, anywhere in the world. You can also send them text messages. It also has its own instant messenger platform, and you can host video conference calls, which makes a telecommuting Thanksgiving dinner just as awkward as the one you’re traditionally used to. All you need is either a computer and/or a phone. Some features are free to use; others, like calling landlines, require you to put money into a debit account. It’s still loads cheaper than those old by-the-minute calling cards I used throughout college.

Skype was created in 2003 by Danish tech innovator Janus Friis and his Swedish counterpart, Niklas Zennstöm. In 2006, Friis and Zennström were named together in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people issue. The technology quickly revolutionized the world of communication. Just under two years after launching, eBay acquired Skype Technologies for $2.5 billion USD. In 2011, Microsoft scooped it up for $8.5 billion USD and began integrating Skype into its own platforms and eventually replacing its own products, such as instant messaging.

A Dane, Janus Friis, created Skype in 2003, along with Niklas Zennström from Sweden.

There have been other video calling apps or products that have come to market since Skype first launched. Apple’s FaceTime is one of them, and its iOs has similar features. But iOs can’t do it all like Skype can (forgive me, Great Spirit of Steve Jobs). The best thing about Skype is that the person you’re calling doesn’t also have to have it or be technologically versed in even the slightest way, as is the case with FaceTime.

Say, for example, you want to call your Farmor at The Danish Home to thank her for the check she sent you for Christmas while you’re traveling overseas. Using your Skype account, you can call the phone in her room directly, as if it were any other kind of phone call.

Though not all parties have to have Skype to benefit from it, there’s a pretty good chance that it is part of their communication routine, too. By 2014, 40 percent of people making international calls were using Skype. In 2015, there were 300 million active users every month.

Another thing to consider is that because The Danish Home has wi-fi, any phone or tablet or laptop or desktop with an account can be used to Skype out to friends and family back home in Denmark, so your Farmor or your dad or whoever can see everyone’s familiar and happy holiday faces.

And remember, if you’re phone or video calling someone who also has a Skype account, it’s completely free. That means you have more money to buy more Christmas presents! Because, if you’re anything like me, it’s best to overwhelm those on your list with things to open to distract them from the underwhelming things inside. You know, maybe this holiday season I’d be better off taking a trip to Copenhagen while Kim is with her parents in Cincinnati and use Skype to celebrate. Because I’m really good at it.