Skype (2011): Introduction to Skype

Lesson 1: Introduction to Skype

What is Skype?

This content refers to a previous version of Skype - go here for the current version.

Couple using a webcam and headset

Skype may be the answer to a lot of things you've always wanted but didn't know were possible. A way to talk to family members in different parts of the country for free. A way to call people abroad—on their phones or cell phones—for less money. A way to be there for important life events when you can't be there in person.

In a nutshell, Skype is a service that lets you call other Skype users anywhere in the world and talk to them for free. You can even talk to each other live over video.

How does it work?

All of this is possible through a technology called voiceover IP, or VoIP (pronounced voyp). VoIP is a method of transmitting the human voice over Internet protocol (IP) networks. Skype uses VoIP to let you make phone calls, video calls, group calls, and more over the Internet instead of using traditional phone lines. Watch this video from Say it Visually to see what Skype can do.

Other VoIP and video options

Skype isn't the only software that can be used to make VoIP and video calls. Other free or affordable options include:

Features and services

Now that you know how Skype works, check out this complete list of features broken down by service. Many features are free but some cost money, ranging from a few cents per minute to several dollars per month. To learn more about pricing, go to Skype's Rates page.

Overview of Skype features and services

Ways to pay

Skype's most popular features are free, including basic calling, video, and messaging. If you want something that's included in one of the paid services, payment options vary depending on the features you choose.

  • Pay as you go: To pay for extra features as you go, you'll need to purchase something called Skype Credit for your account. Skype Credit is how you pay for anything on Skype that's not part of a subscription. It's similar to buying tokens—or charging up your MetroCard—so you can ride the subway. Learn more about it at Skype Credit.
  • Subscription: You can purchase a regular subscription that lasts 1 month, 3 months, or 12 months. When it expires, Skype will renew it automatically using the payment method you have on file. (You can still cancel your subscription at any time.) Learn more about subscriptions on Skype's Rates page.

Skype accepts Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and more for all of the above.

Ways to pay for SkypeWays to pay for Skype