Skype today announced version 1.1 of its Internet telephony service, adding new design and improved instant messaging features to put it better placed compared with other messaging rivals such as Yahoo and MSN Messenger.
While Skype has always been superior to its main rivals in terms of voice quality, critics pointed to its rather spartan instant messaging functions compared with Yahoo and MSN. The latest version indeed puts its wealthy rivals to shame with its smart clear interface and total absence of any advertising.
Other benefits over other voice chat, instant messaging and file transfer programmes are the Skype encryption, which keeps all communications private and immune to hacking. MSN has faced great embarassment in the past with its so-called secure Passport users Emails having been leaked to spammers.
In addition to these features, the new version 1.1 for Windows now gives Skype users the ability to start chat rooms of up to 50 people. Other new features include improved contact list management and smarter look, with avatars alongside highlighted contacts and alerts that help users to monitor when their contacts come online.
Skype, the Global Internet Telephone Company, has also begun to experiment with a voicemail service, hoping to introduce new paid offerings such as offering incoming calls from landlines to capitalise on its success.
The Luxembourg-based start-up confirmed on Tuesday that it was testing voicemail, which a spokeswoman said was scheduled to be rolled out in the first half of the year.
Chief executive Niklas Zennstrom, who had also introduced the controversial file-swapping program Kazaa, has previously cited voicemail as an example of a premium offering the company would roll out in 2005 in response to user requests.
Skype is already growing faster than Hotmail at its zenith, with 20.2 million registered users and around 100 000 new users signing up daily.
Download Skype for free from www.skype.com/download.