Skype’s Number Game

Skype came out some data today, trying to give a sense of what’s up with one of the most hyped brands in the world. The company says so far it has passed 150 million downloads and 50 million “registered Skype Names.” These numbers really don’t amount to anything much if you ask me. It doesn’t tell you how many people have registered two or more names. The numbers don’t tell you how many are paying customers. In other words, pure FUD. I am sorry they have to do a better job of disclosing their user information.

Carlo is right when he says, “Part of the Skhype mystique is that the company’s more keen to pump how many times its software’s been downloaded rather than how many actual users it has.” It would have been a metric that made sense back in the 1990s, but not anymore.

Stuart Henshall, the man behind ultra-fine Skype Journal is the go-to guy on Skype, and in an email he wrote, “My guess is between two and three names for every ID. Smart people have registered multiple ID’s already. The 150 million is just a fiction and we all know it.” Here is his take on the numbers, where he writes, “Skype added only 10% in the last three months.” Stuart had pieced together a report back in May 2005 which showed that the company’s growth was slowing.

I managed to get my hands on some data which shows that the growth might be “really” slowing down, and that is perhaps one of the reasons Skype is out shopping itself. For instance, active users dropped 19% from April to May 2005 in the US, while France and Brazil had no growth during that time. UK and Germany grew at low single digit levels for that time frame. The overall active user base for Skype grew between 35%-to-50% from Q2 2004 through Q1 2005, but in the Q2 the numbers dropped to around 7%. Q3 is showing similar downward trend. Stuart explained that the declines happen in the summer months because schools/colleges are closed and lot of students are not getting on Skype. Still, even if you takes those numbers with a pinch of salt, its clear that the mega-growth days are over. And as I said earlier, this is as good a time for Skype to find a buyer.