GigaOm's Paul Kapustka was busy crunching the numbers that were revealed during the quarterly eBay earnings call. Skype Journal's Jim Courtney was listening in, and feeding me tidbits by GTalk while I was downing fantastic Portuguese wines that one never sees in the USA, having tasty razor clams and then a sensational Sea Bream, all in a very hip and swank dining spot that is owned in part by John Malkovich, thanks to a tip from fellow foodie Esme Vos of MuniWireless.
While Jim and I were chatting, I was on my Blackberry that was not affected at all by the widely known outage. As we chatted it became clear to us that something in the numbers was odd, but by no means inaccurate. With Skype users being added daily, one would think that it would mean that voice minutes would go up. But the contrary occurred. They remained flat, something likely directly related to people only have so much time in the day to talk when they are in front of a PC or even near a phone, that the first quarter is a heavy holiday month and for at least half of the first month of January college is either not in session or it is just starting up again.
So looking at the numbers from the glass is half full this means in order for Skype to grow they have to cultivate new users to computer calling, not just get friends of friends to start using it, because all those friends of friends do is cannibalize the existing pool of minutes that one friend has to talk to someone (though three way calling could cause a slight upward ripple.) This also means that viral marketing has its limits, in that you can only infect so many who will take on the same habits.
So to grow this means Skype will be going more mainstream in their marketing, advertising and promotion to bring new calling types on to their network. As they do that though, it will bring with it the challenge they want to most deeply avoid. Being a phone company, and with it all the regulation, requirements like E911, Tariffs and more. Unlike my clams and wine, that's not going to taste real good for a while, but in the end, if eBay lets the service mature the right way, to reach the market maturity stage, they will find that the year they acquired Skype was a very good vintage after all.
If you want more on the numbers, check out Phil Wolff's late night missive on the subject.