Saturday, August 18, 2007

Skype's Problem is PR, Not Technology

Before their 2-day outage this week, it was impossible to imagine that Skype would ever find itself comparable to your typical airline in terms of information policy.

But that is exactly the position that Skype's less than impressive PR strategy has put it in. By releasing little tangible data and punctuating releases with periods of "dead air" up to twelve hours in length, Skype has turned itself from "trusted VOIP top dog" into just another big company that doesn't care how long we're going to sit on the runway.

The PR folks handling the Skype situation seem to have forgotten who built the company into the 220 million user powerhouse it is today: a combination of technology-savvy, socially-networked geeks.

This network of super-smart customers needs to be given much more to chew on than an "algorithm deficiency" - otherwise they will use their gray matter to come up with any number of conspiracies involving viruses, saboteurs and terrorists. Indeed, many such theories are doing the rounds.

Tell us more, Skype. Name the data centers and customer base subsets affected, discuss the nature of the breakdown in encryption that has occurred between your clients and servers, tell us if it was caused by a bad update or a piece of malware - share with us.

You will not lose customers because you chose to share this information: the opposite is much more likely.

As a resident of downtown New York during 9/11, I remain thankful for Rudy Giuliani's handling of the situation, and how much he shared with us during that day. Despite having to manage a broken city, and fires on numerous fronts, he found time to address New York's residents and provide enough information for us to understand, react, plan, navigate, and compensate on that horrible day.

Skype's PR team need to maybe take a leaf out of Rudy's book and think about how people use Skype, and how much more information might be warranted above what is currently being released.

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