Skype users in the United States and the United Kingdom can now use the service without having to download the application. The service, called Skype for Web, was developed after customer feedback indicated users wanted to be able to call and instant message people when they visited Skype's website.
Current Skype users simply sign into Skype for Web and will see their contacts and conversations load in just a few seconds, so whether they usually use Skype on a mobile, tablet, native desktop app, or a TV, they'll see their latest chats or calls to respond to through the browser.
"Skype for Web is an important step for Skype as we move toward implementing the technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the Web a reality," Jonathan Watson, Skype's senior product marketing manager, wrote on the company's blog. "Skype for Web is perfect if you normally use Skype on your mobile, but want to quickly get to your calls and IMs on a bigger screen. Or perhaps you're sitting at a Windows or Mac computer in an Internet cafe or hotel that doesn't already have Skype downloaded."
As part of the beta launch, the company has also improved the way users search for people and groups on Skype.
Now, instead of two separate lists for contacts and recent conversations, Skype for Web introduced a single, searchable list in a timeline view.
In addition, the company rolled out notifications on Skype for Web, which users will need to enable when they sign in, so they don't miss incoming instant messages or audio and video calls -- even if they're using another app or viewing a different website in another browser window.
The beta release follows Skype's announcement of an update to Outlook.com that features a refined inbox, upgraded calendar, and new version of Skype.
This updated version of Skype, which is also still in the beta phase, is designed to make it easier for users to use Skype together with their inbox.
Since its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype in 2011, Microsoft has been steadily rolling out updates to the service, including Skype 4.0 on TV, a collaboration with Samsung's camera-equipped television sets, and enhancements to the service for iPhone and Android smartphone users.
With Skype as part of Microsoft, and Microsoft looking to expand the research of collaboration and productivity applications beyond traditional Windows users, it's no surprise that the company is trying to make Skype easier to use, and available to many more people.
[Read more about Skype for Business.]
In April, Microsoft officially released Skype for Business, turning the tool into an enterprise app, especially with its integration into Office 2013.
While Microsoft has tried to keep Skype as a separate group, this slow type of integration is a way to help build out the user base, a strategy that CEO Satya Nadella has made clear, with an emphasis on cloud computing and mobility that will eventually overshadow traditional desktops.Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio