back to article Skype: Microsoft's $8.5 billion identity tool

In 2005, eBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion to bring voice communications to the online auction site, claiming the combination would "revolutionise the ease with which people can communicate through the internet." Four years later, eBay sold Skype for $2.75 billion because no one wanted to talk to the other party in a …


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  1. Saul Dobney
    Thumb Down


    So all that Skype spam I get with fake IDs seeking connections is good ID data?

  2. dogged

    A better reason

    is to integrate Skype into WP7 so that you can have a Skype number as your main number and Skype contacts are integrated into the phonebook.

    At that point, especially with Nokia's economies of scale driving down the handset costs, you can pick up a £10/month unlimited data SIM from Three or GiffGaff and the mobile carriers become merely another source of bits.

    I don't imagine they'd like that much but then, they haven't exactly been pushing WP7 phones at customers, have they? Sales assistants actively discourage buyers at the moment.

    If I were Steve Ballmer, I'd use this opportunity to bury them.

    1. ■↨

      Yes, a much better reason

      dogged is completely right. The whole reason M$ + Skype + Nokia could be a game changer is that with a good implementation of Skype and SkypeOut by Nokia on WP7 handsets then Microsoft could push the IP Telephony revolution much harder and faster than it has been pushed before. There's money in wheelbarrows for the first to make it work well...

      1. dogged
        Thumb Up

        Don't worry about the downvotes. They happen when you type "WP7" without going to talk about how doomed it is.

        You get used to it after a while.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Same here

      My Skype profile is one of the most anonymous accounts i have!

  4. Forget It

    AutoHotKey script to kill "Skype Home" annoying popup

    NoEnv ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.

    SendMode Input ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.

    Run "C:\Program Files (x86)\Skype\Phone\Skype.exe"



    IfWinExist, Skype Home


    WinClose ; use the window found above




  5. Dazed and Confused

    Account details

    If they really want to map out their users details they need to sort out allowing multiple access to a single account. I can't think of how many Skype accounts I've got coz the stupid system can't get its head around that fact that you might have more than 1 PC plus a phone (or more than 1) plus all sorts of other guff these days runs Skype.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      @Dazed and Confused: Seems to do that already?

      I've got skype on PCs, phones, etc. They all ring when someone calls me, and when I answer I'm speaking to whoever.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Agree with bazza

        I log everything into the same account at the same time (phones, computers, whatever) and they all work - but I know this used to be a problem.

  6. bblackmoor


    "fake identities just don't work very well for true social networking"

    You could not be more clueless if you tried. Todd Vierling completely eviscerates your comically misinformed point of view:

    1. gribbler

      very interesting link

      but the point of the article here is that many people do use their real identities online, especially older people (my dad doesn't hide his identity on skype). I actually don't have a great problem with MS trying to use the data from that to identify people. If you've chosen to not be anonymous on skype then so be it, similarly if you want to use a pseudonym on skype and link it to a random email address etc then you should be allowed to do so. As long as it's optional then it's ok, many people really are not that concerned about online anonymity and really most people have nothing to fear. Now, google trying to force people to use true names is something that I really don't agree with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Skype for Business

        I think a lot of the IT folk on here may have "big" company backgrounds and do not realise that there are an awful lot of independent professionals, consultants and small businesses across the globe which use Skype mainly for business reasons, namely that relatively speaking it is a cheap, efficient, stable, secure tool with some nice features. Integrating that into Office 365 would be a killer for MS. These business users of course use their own names so that their clients and suppliers can identify them properly.

  7. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    Fake identities is a "problem"?

    Why? It's only the Internet. It's not real.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      A Moderately Fake Master is not a Real Driver

      "Fake identities is a "problem"? ... Why? It's only the Internet. It's not real." .... Pirate Dave Posted Wednesday 7th September 2011 21:24 GMT

      Quite so, Pirate Dave, it is so much more and better than just that, throwing open, as IT does, cracked Windows and hacked portals for all manner of sophisticated programs into Virtual Space Exploration and Exploitation, examining Pioneering XSSXXXXPEditionary Missionary Forays into Commandeering and Controlling Futures and their Derivative Options Portfolios with Stealthy Anonymous Plays that Work for Everyone Everywhere in REST.

      And do not be overly concerned or distracted by the enigmatic paradox which states that Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems deliver Working RESTful Play to Everyone Everywhere, for such information as drivers such Virtually Advanced IntelAIgent Operating Systems, will invariably be extremely highly classified and be known to only a right choice few, and be jealously guarded against and securely protected from all wanton abuse and reckless misuse of ITs Generous Generative Powers with Creative Control Mastery ...... AIMagic Touch.

      In an earlier time and space was Midas touched and enabled with such thinking.

      Thanks for the essay, Matt, leading as it does with cutting edge thoughts to be applied in future programming of available platforms, which all present to a greater or lesser degree a current and dynamic unfolding reality which is composed of a multitude of alternate virtual realities ..... and which are now InterNetworking in Betas for Delivery of a NeuReal World Order System, Mentoring and Monitoring Active Singularity Proponents.

  8. Rupert Stubbs


    An interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking article in the Reg. Reminds me how it used to be. Keep it up, guys.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you forgot the /sarcasm tags

      says it...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Secrets and Lies!

    All of us have some secrets. Things that our closest family does not know about.

    In this always interconnected age, there can't be anything of significance that only you know about.

    Using aliases/pseudonyms on sites/chartooms allows you to be yourself not who your friends and family think you are.

    I write for a hobby. The 2hrs on the train to/from work are ideal for putting pen to paper. However the topic I write about is.. well out of the ordinary. Many members of my family wouldn't understand if they found out about. Besides, there is a long history of writers using false names.

    If we have to use our real name everywhere we go on the internet then none of us will have any privacy. Every day we have less and less privacy. This move to make us use real identities is just another reason why I'll never:-

    - Use Skype

    - Use MSN

    - Use Gmail or Google+

    - Use facebook.

    Yes, I have googled(and binged) myself and my alias.As I write this there is no connection between the two. I want to keep it that way thank you very much.

    BB Naturally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just by searching creates the link...

      You searched for your name and your alias. How many others do you think did this? So the search engines have your IP and the two search terms stored. Your ISP will have more details.

      Just having an alias or false email is not enough to be truely private on the internet.

  10. Levente Szileszky
    IT Angle

    Errrr no, eBay sold Skype for $1.9B cash, not $2.75B...

    ...that was just a so-called 'value' number, only to save face after that that crazy clueless woman (Meg Whitman, that is) spent $2.6B on Skype 4 years earlier, pfff.

    1. Greg 16


      I'd say the clueless one is whoever sold it for $1.9 Billion, only for it to be bought by MS for $8.5 Billion 2 years later!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I don't think its about identity...

    Because well, MS has already changed their own policies regarding their Live ID accounts that you should now use a 2 part name. Where I used to only have 1 nickname now they insist on changing that, probably aiming at using real names.

    Well, not me. I like using an alias and the people who know me or need to know will also realize that this alias is me. What's so hard about that? If they need to find you you can always provide them with extra information.

    I don't think its about identifies here but technology. MS is really working on the connectivity part. I work on a document in Word, I can - from within Word - easily use my Live ID to save said document onto an online location for others to use. And although Live messenger already supports VOIP it is hardly deniable that Skype had the upper hand.

    Heck; you can Skype from Linux, your PSP, your phone... All parts which MS hadn't reached yet.

    Sure, identities are one part of the deal. But getting a foothold on other platforms even more so IMO. Being able to check a Word document from your phone is nice, being able to share it also with your "Linux buddies" without them having to rely on their browser can be even better...

  12. Anonymous Coward

    " much as 40 per cent of website user accounts being fraudulent."

    You need to look up the definition of fraud.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear
      Thumb Up


      Whenever I read blanket statements like that I want to beat the author until he the terms used. So, Matt, please define fraudulent as used in this piece.

  13. IglooDude


    That must be why Skype has put a daily-or-upon-login "Skype Home" welcome-to-social-networking popup window into its latest version, and backfilled it to all 5.x installed versions, and provided no option for disabling it despite widespread user dissatisfaction at the "feature".

    Or maybe not.

    1. IsJustabloke

      I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

      that thing was annoying the crap out of me to the extent that I disabled Skype from starting full stop; now I start skype at pre-arranged times to chat only to the people I've exchanged details with.. IE my family who all live abroad.

      I had plans to extend my use of skype but that one single annoyance has effectively prevented me from exploring it further, I'll certainly never install a skype client on my mobey now, god knows what shit they'll pop up / under / over.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tell me, Matt

    What does it mean to "trust the /identity/" of someone you've never met before?

    Does it matter to you whether ebay seller jam13 really has William Q. Smith on his birth certificate, is called Bob by his family if they don't call him Dear, or Paw, or whatever? (All names made up on the spot.) I say it makes not a whit of difference. You might decide it's wise to not deal with the guy if you happen to know his dad's from Nigeria, his mom's from Lagos, and he's currently sitting in a Brixton easy everything yapping at his mobe trying to convince some old cat lady to mortgage her house so she can pony up "the fees needed to unlock the inheritance". But his passport will tell you none of that.

    You actually want to know he'll not stiff you on a deal. Where ebay has "buyer protection" and some sort of reputation system, elsewhere neither might not be available. And even within ebay neither are a panacea. But I digress.

    The problem you're conveniently overlooking, as is everyone else including google, facebook, and the governments to boot, is that you're coming from a hopelessly corporate view of "identity" that simply doesn't fit the real world (not counting the parts that are called cubicle hell and even there...) and moreover doesn't do what you claim it does.

    I fully agree we need better ways to address these things, but the current way "everyone" is trying to do that will not even get us close. You may well be correct this is close enough for micros~1's thinking to explain why they did buy skype, but the overall approach remains a corporate turd that's ultimately bad for everyone if perpetuated.

  15. Paul C

    The same logic may make Hulu valuable to Google as well

    If you're paying for Hulu Plus, you're providing them with actual identity (billing) data. And the paying customers are worth a lot more than the "freeloaders", especially to advertisers.That might be enough to get Google to buy.

    By the way, Amazon also has that information.

  16. NoneSuch Silver badge

    HugeWang69 is a Skype name...

    I wonder how many billions they are willing to spend to add that guys account...?

  17. mark l 2 Silver badge

    MSN accounts

    I have had about 5 MSN accounts (Windows live or whatever they want to call it this week) and none of them are under my real name.

    And with skype the only good skype accounts to hold info on are the ones where the user has added credit to their skype account to make POTS phone calls which i think is probably quite a small percentage. The majority of people i know use skype for p2p calls for free so don't have to give anything more than an email account and name which is not really much use for anything much other than spamming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Oh yeah - and just remember - if someone does add credit to their skype account *the credit will be deleted if you don't actually use any of it after 6 months*

  18. Mage Silver badge

    as much as 40 per cent of website user accounts being fraudulent.


    About 300 members and 11,500 rejected spammers.

    I make that about 97% fraudulent.

    Real Names is a fraction of the 300 valid non-fraudulent members.


    You could say we audit so well that none of the 300 are spammers. 100% of the user accounts are not fraudulent.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is Microsoft

    so fuck them.

  20. Mark 65


    "Such people aren't hiding behind pseudonyms. They want their children living abroad to be able to easily find and add them as contacts. "

    Oh, how wrong you are. Just like email, I don't need to search because the party I wish to connect to has already told me the account name to link up to

  21. Lars Silver badge


    Not sure about that. There are lots of people with the same name as mine. On gmail I receive stuff that does not belong to me. I was not able to make a Skype account with my real name as it was already taken.

    Stopped using Skype when they stole my money. They gave me some weeks to use Skype in an email, and as I did not, as I was on an vacation, they simply stole my money.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Bleeding pop-ups!

    The dam'n program is a royal pain in the arse with its never ending pop-ups telling me stuff about my contacts that I don't give a toss about anyway.

    It has got so bad that I now only fire it up when I have a call to make, and then I immediately shut it down again so I don't have to suffer its annoying interruptions.

    Anyone know of any alternatives?

    1. OffBeatMammal

      skype becoming bloated and annoying

      there's a good script earlier in this thread that shows how to stop that annoying "home" window (less of a home and more of an ugly cardboard box for trolls). That combined with tweaking the options to turn off every pop-up alert and sound that I don't want and skype is okay

      I wish they would let you sync settings to the cloud - I don't want to set up the same damn tweaks every time I install it - and make that home window a real option (and if they're going to keep it then make it useful!)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The right to anonymity

    Not using your real identity is "fraudulent"?

    Matt, you should read Groklaw's PJ on anonymity, First Amendment rights, and the internet:

  24. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Why real identity?

    What difference does it make if you know someone's real identity, if all you want to do is sell them stuff (or sell someone else advertising)?

    I can go into thousands of shops and buy things without any need for anyone to know my identity. If BristolBachelor says he wants 100 widgets and pays you what you want for 100 widgets, what difference does it make who BristolBachelor really is? (I am ignoring the sale of guns and rocket launchers, because that is just silly!)

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Because BristolBachelor has bought 100 widgets from me in the past, he may well want some more widgets at some point in the future; I'd rather he bought them from me than someone else so I'm keen to tempt him to return. Judging by his posts on t'interweb (which I can link him to if I know who he is), he doesn't sound too clever so I reckon I can reel him in with less of an offer than I need to gain new custom from Anonymous Coward.

      Whether BristolBachelor wants me to know who he is, is a different matter altogether. Send me your name, address and some other juicy demographics and I'll tell you all about it some day.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Errr

        But as long as he is calling himself BristolBachelor and he is reachable through that handle on whatever forum you are using to send your tempting pitch, that *is* his identity and you don't need any other cross-referencing to "validate" it.

        There are no fake identities, only multiple ones. Furthermore, this is true in real life, not just on the web, and perfectly legal, so anyone who reckons "identity" is the killer app for the internet has gone wrong before they even started.

        The world has not been designed to make it easy for you to milk it. Nor is it reasonable to expect people to change habits (and names) of a lifetime just to simplify your marketing push.

  25. leeeeeb


    ... the Skype app is now such an unusable UI mess, I'm considering alternatives. Many use it for work, and we're probably the majority of paying users. The IM side of Skype is as important as the voice calling, and the interface since version five is hopeless. Seems to have been built by a bunch of UX numpties, with a whitespace fixation.

    If Microsoft want to own the user accounts/identity go ahead. Hopefully that will also allow them to open up the API and allow some competition in the client/application space.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    good reasons for fake ID's

    A lot of people don't want to be found on the internet. Not because there fake ID is scurrilous but because their real ID puts them in danger; police, politicians, social services, celebrities, parts of the armed forces etc. With a land line it was possible to go ex-directory. You can get a fairly anonymous pre-pay mobile. It's not so easy on the internet. Anyone trust Google or Microsoft with anything remotely valuable? No me neither.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Tee Hee?

    I Wiki'ed Fraud just to be sure and I hope Wiki does not mind me quoting:

    The industries most commonly affected are banking, manufacturing, and government.


  28. Cassie Anderson
    Thumb Up

    We'll create trust online (as needed) by being in control of our own digital identities

    "… the need for trust - for trusting the other's identity - has never been greater."

    Agree. What I do think is important though is that the user is always in control of their own digital identity, not Google, not Facebook, not Skype.

    There are more and more situations online where being able to 'prove you are who you say you are' is very important. Online dating is a great example, professional networking too and there definitely is a case for proving your identity when you're buying and selling through the likes of Ebay and Gumtree. No one likes to get ripped off.

    Having that level of trust upfront, for those that want and need it, could make life a lot easier and speed up the way we transact online. This an issue close to our hearts at miiCard, where we want people to be able to create this level of trust online by being in control of their digital identity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agree, but do tell

      Part of what I've been saying for a while now. And while at it, not just identity but a whole raft of sensitive things, neatly compartimetalised and secured in your hands with close control of who gets to see what, if anything. The system ought to only guarantee the integrity of the system, not decide who gets to play what role.

      Problem, most if not every system so far utilizes "identity providers" and other such entities that sport abilities not granted to joe citizen. That is, Ordinary Citizens are not First Class Citizens. As long as that's the case you keep the same problem as the ssl certificate scam bunch have, which is that the CAs are in a position where you have no choice but to trust them, making for poor choice. Governments usually do a better job, though by no means inherently so, more out of habit and long tedious paperwork practice than anything. But the point is, a truly flexible system doesn't inherently create classes of citizenship.

      Care to explain how your system avoids this?

      1. Cassie Anderson

        We're about giving people a system to control their digital identities and to use it as and when they need to prove their identity and create trust online. It works by the miiCard user linking to an online bank account to get that level of validation of identity (your bank has done this by sighting various forms of photo identification; passport, driver's license, and sometimes utility bills). Once your miiCard is validated you can tie in your other online accounts such as Ebay, PayPal, LinkedIn etc. At every stage you are in control with what amount of your information you share with others.

        So I guess you have to trust your bank. We know it won't be for everyone, but there is a need for creating trust online and that's what we're aiming to do for those who see the value in it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I know I no longer trust my bank

          Thank you for your answer. So you conveniently fob off the meat of the thing to a third party that in turn relies on a fourth (the government) for same. You may not have noticed but the rules for opening and keeping bank accounts have become right-out oppressive in, well, most of mainland yurp for starters, all in the name of terrorism of course. It's no longer a bit of identity checking. It's a complete copy of same, kept on file and therefore a privacy risk. What you're describing as offering is a front-end with some user-twiddlable knobs as to what "the user" wants fifth, sixth, and so on parties to see. No guarantees they're not keeping the data and aggregate it over time. No first class citizenship.

          I agree twiddlable knobs would already be more than available elsewhere, and it'll yield useful experience, but the improvement seems marginal. Most importantly, it doesn't allow for zero-knowledge proofs and it doesn't even try to level the playing field. And that is a missed chance.

          In short, you're yet another broker still stuck in corporate identity doctrine. It might be just enough innovation to carve out a niche and maybe get bought by google+ so they have a better argument ramming their Ts&Cs down the throats of an unwilling audience, but it ultimately is not future proof, not for a future I'd like to live in. A pity, really.

  29. Dazed and Confused
    Paris Hilton

    Online dating

    Certainly is a great example.

    A large number of people involved in online dating would want to be damn certain of anonymity.

    They'd be in big trouble if their other haves ever found out.

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