Microsoft recently announced that Skype for Business Online is shutting down on July 31, 2021. But the consumer version of Skype, which you can download for free, isn't going anywhere. So: what's happening?
To summarize: if your business pays for Microsoft 365 and uses the version of Skype that came with it, you'll need to switch to another video and messaging service. Microsoft would like it if you switched to Microsoft Teams, a team chat app that also offers robust video conferencing. You could do that, or you could use the opportunity to check out other video conferencing apps. It's up to you.
Still have questions? Let's answer them.
What's going on?
Microsoft, like some other big companies, loves nothing more than offering several versions of the same product with confusing names. It's understandable if you don't know which version of Skype your company is currently using, so let's break this down.
Skype is the consumer video chat service that anyone can download for free. It's not affected by this announcement.
Skype for Business is an entirely different app aimed at the business market and isn't available for free. There are two current versions of this app, only one of which is shutting down.
Skype for Business Online came with Microsoft 365, is hosted on Microsoft's servers, and is the version that is shutting down.
Skype for Business Server 2019 is software your business can purchase and install locally on a server. This version will keep working and will be officially supported by Microsoft until October 14, 2025.
Finally, Microsoft Teams is a team chat app that also offers video conferencing. This is what Microsoft recommends Skype for Business Online users switch to.
Why is this happening?
I don't work for Microsoft, but it's clear the company is slowly moving on from Skype and pushing Teams instead. Heck, Microsoft Teams will be built into the Windows 11 toolbar. It's not obvious what that means at this point, but it doesn't bode well for Skype's future.
Microsoft built Teams to be the alternative to both Slack and Zoom—it wants Skype for Business owners to migrate to that service. Teams has video conferencing, but it also offers much more than Skype for Business ever did when it comes to text chat. Plus, it's a solution that integrates deeply with all of Microsoft's tools (and thousands of other tools using Zapier's Microsoft Teams integration).
But that's not the only factor here.
The Skype brand just isn't what it used to be. Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion, in no small part so they could sell a business version of the video service. The brand was strong: "Skype" was more or less the internet's official verb for video chatting.
Ten years later, during a global pandemic where all human contact happened over video, Skype is basically irrelevant. No one was "Skyping" last year—they were "Zooming" or "FaceTiming." Skype, as a verb, is dead.
So Microsoft is moving on from Skype for Business, and you probably should too. Happily, Teams is a pretty good alternative, and there are plenty of other alternatives out there too: