Skype was one of the first providers to offer computer-to-computer video, instant messaging and voice calling all in one package. Using software available via a free download from Skype, users can either communicate freely between computers or pay a small fee (2.1 cents per minute or more) to make calls from a computer to a telephone number. Also for a fee ($18 per month or less), a service called SkypeIn assigns a telephone number to a Skype account so incoming telephone calls can be received on the user's computer.
Skype comes in the form of a downloadable program found on the Skype Web site. The process of configuring Skype is quite easy, and a search feature helps users find people on Skype that can be added to the Skype phone book. Once installed, users can call other Skype users for voice, instant message, or video chat. Skype also provides the ability to video conference three or more users, somthing that Google Voice and Chat cannot do.
Many smartphone users use Skype to make voice calls over 3G or 4G data connections to other computer and mobile users, allowing them to conserve their voice minutes.
Another Skype service, Skype Access, provides easy access to public networks for a fee of just $.19 per minute.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ZyMOS.