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Skype: A Great Service with a Few Quirks
The popular online text, voice and video chat service Skype has a massive user base of millions of members worldwide. Any member, once logged in, should have access to an online contact that they can chat with via keyboard, microphone or webcam. Skype has proven to be a great tool for performing various collaboration tasks, such as online meetings and recording podcasts, as well as having more general social uses, such as chatting with friends and family overseas.
However, as good as all of this may seem, Skype isn’t adverse to the odd bug. One of the most frustrating is when Skype is not showing all of your contacts as being online, even when it turns out that they are.
This is a big bug that has been around for a while now, and one that can be blamed for missed meetings and even the odd falling-out between friends and family…
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Why Are My Contacts Offline When I Know They Are Online?
In order to chat with people who are online, you can click on them in Skype (where they are indicated with a green icon) and then right click to select Call, Send IM or Video Call. However, you are unlikely to attempt to do this with people that are listed as “offline", which is indicated with a blanked out icon with a green outline.
If Skype is showing a contact as offline rather than online, and you know that the contact is online (for instance, they might have emailed you) there are various things that you can try to resolve the problem.
The first is to check that you are using the most up-to-date version of Skype. You can check for this in the main Skype window – go to Help > Check for Updates and you should soon know if you are using the most recent version or if an update is available.
A second check is rather contentious. Skype’s own support have suggested to users that they remove the entry in their firewall for Skype in order to resolve the problem, with the indication being once the firewall software detects behaviour from the chat software you can assign it privileges for sending and receiving data. However, this overlooks the fact that Skype already has considerable privileges and often uses your computer as part of a P2P network in order to route video chat and voice call data for other users.
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Forcing Skype to Detect Users
This unusual lack of functionality has a third downside in addition to those listed above. Thanks to its inability to always display contacts as online, Skype can prevent third party services that some users employ from appearing active. One such example is the Ring2Skype service, a free alternative to Skype’s own service for assigning a physical phone number to your account. If Ring2Skype appears offline or you appear offline to it, then you won’t receive any phonecalls from landlines or mobiles.
There is a way around all of this, however. The simplest fixes are always the best, and if Skype lists someone or a service as being offline and you suspect they might be online, the quickest thing to do is drop them a quick instant message and wait and see what happens.
Once you have done that, get them to check their status, and check yours too, just to make sure you’re all listed as Online rather than Do Not Disturb or Invisible.
Following these steps should shake Skype up enough to display you and your contacts as online; it's one to remember for future reference!
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Author's own experience.
Screenshot by author.