Microsoft Reboots Skype with New Features

Skype is getting its biggest face-lift in years, ditching its light-blue theme for a customizable interface and features aimed at the way young people communicate, from emojis to a Snapchat-like recap of the day.

In addition to the cosmetic changes being made by Microsoft, the update modernizes Skype's underlying infrastructure, years in the making, in an effort to give the service the reliability needed to compete with upstarts in the crowded world of communications software.

Amritansh Raghav, the corporate vice president who leads Skype, calls the update rolling out on Thursday, the biggest set of changes to Skype since the addition of video calling 11 years ago.

The service's former backbone -- peer-to-peer connections that linked a caller to their target through a direct line -- is being replaced in the update by Microsoft's network of data centers. Some of users' complaints about the service, including phantom notifications or calls that were missed entirely, should disappear as the service debuts for Skype's users, Raghav said.

"We needed to modernize the Skype infrastructure," he said. "The good news is we're finally done."

Skype, which Microsoft scooped up for $8.5 billion in 2011, was a pioneer in voice and video calls made over the internet, instead of wired telephone connections or cellular networks.

Today, such internet communications tools are commonplace, and some have lapped Microsoft's product in usage, partially a result of the Redmond company's small presence on smartphones.

Facebook Messenger and Facebook-owned WhatsApp each boast more than one billion users. China-focused QQ and WeChat aren't far behind, and Google and Apple are both investing in communications tools tied to their expansive mobile platforms.

A year ago Microsoft said Skype had 300 million "monthly connected users," little changed from 2013.

Thursday's update follows a corporate restructuring and layoffs as Microsoft consolidates what used to be Skype's broad European footprint.

Skype, formerly housed...

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