Arguably the best known video conferencing tool out there, Skype seems about as basic as pumpkin spiced lattes in the autumn. However, there are a few things you don't know about the video giant, and some of them can certainly work in your favor. Whether you're a long-time Skype devotee, just starting to sniff around its features, or sitting firmly on the fence, these seven interesting facts just might sway you into the arms of this communication giant.

It made communication free--way before WhatsApp

Okay, it's not technically "free" but getting a Skype phone number with the country code of your choosing is less expensive than a regular landline. It's perfect for anyone who regularly travels abroad, runs a business from abroad, or works with several international clients. For just a couple of dollars per month, you can have an US (or nearly any other country's) phone number, set up voicemail, and get calls just like you were in that country. It's totally free for those in that country to reach you.

Skype's in bed with Microsoft

Love Microsoft (okay, Windows 8 is a little iffy)? Then you'll be happy to know the two tech giants have teamed up and Skype is technically considered a "division of Microsoft". The goal is to provide the best possible experience for users without an increase in cost. It's nearly impossible to actually compete with a monster like Microsoft, so Skype opted to join them.

Banned! Not everyone loves Skype

Since Skype is a popular global tool, it's not surprising that there are some countries and industries which have banned it. In fact, there are some network administrators that have nixed the use of Skype for certain education, corporate, home, and government networks due to "inappropriate usage of resources" or using too much bandwidth. Security concerns are also an issue for some network administrators.

It's Not Made in America

It might seem like Skype is an American company, but it didn't start out that way. Initially founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom in 2003--out of Denmark and Sweden respectfully--the actual software was created by a team of Europeans. In 2005, an agreement was made with a Polish web portal, and it wasn't until later that year that eBay became the first American company to acquire Skype Technologies (to the tune of $2.5 billion in cold, hard cash plus some eBay stock).

It fell Windows Live Messenger

On May 10, 2011, Microsoft picked up Skype for $8.5 billion and quickly brought it into the fold. Remember Windows Live Messenger? Microsoft's goal was to have Skype take over that faltering project and it did so with flying colors. However, there are some places (such as China) where Live Messenger is still the preferred method of communication.

SOS! (But not on Skype)

You can almost use Skype like a regular land-line or smart phone, but not quite. Did you know you can't call 911 in North America or the equivalent emergency numbers in Europe, Nepal or India? Beginning in 2012, there was some limited headway in the right direction for a few key countries (none of them the US). According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Skype isn't an "Interconnected VoIP provider" so it doesn't have to offer emergency access.

The numbers are astounding

In 2005, Skype had just 2.9 percent of the overall international call market share. The 2014 figures are shaping up to be 40 percent. That's some serious growing pangs, but proof that the technology works.

For business or pleasure, Skype remains one of the most user-friendly and secure options for calls and video chats. Turning 13 next year, it's time for the teenager to grow up--and you'll reap all the benefits.

Published on: Apr 1, 2015