Skype is one of a number web based technologies that has helped to revolutionise the way we communicate. Find out how you too could benefit from free telephone and video calls.
Skype uses a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This allows computer users connected to the Internet to talk each other via a headset or microphone and speakers. Find out more at www.skype.com.
Cheap calls to landlines and mobile phones are also possible. Some systems allow users to plug their traditional phones into a desktop box that allows them to make VoIP calls.
The new beta version 2.0 of the software is only available for Windows XP but a Macintosh version is expected once the company puts the finishing touches to the software. As well as adding video calling, the new version is designed to work with Microsoft Outlook, adding a toolbar to find and dial contacts.
Skype has 53 million registered users and says more than two million people are using its software at any given moment. In September it was bought by online auction giant eBay in a $2.6bn (£1.4bn) deal.
This is a highly competitive market and new features will be expected in the future. Rival internet services that also offer video phone calling features, include Microsoft’s MSN, America Online’s AIM service and Sony’s free net phone service.