Future payment possibilities of Skype and messaging
Today I tried to catch-up on my mail after a long recovery period from illness. I got tired of responding in detail and decided it would be better to actually just speak with a number of the people who sent me mails. It occurred to me after my 5th conversation that I just sent some of these people I was speaking with for the first time my Skype ID and did not ask if they used Skype or not, it was a given. I don’t know if I am making assumptions but is there really any serious person who does not use Skype? My 70 year old mother uses Skype daily and it is probably the most efficient means of communication over long distances.
I admit that my Skype usage is a bit extreme as it is probably more likely that my phone batteries are dead and I never bother to charge them. I am always online and I am on Skype, it is the best place to catch me. Even when the phone is working, 99% of my conversations are online. My wife thinks I am a very weird and I have completely lost social skills as a result. I recollect her telling me once that she had to leave me in Accra and travel to Lome so she could get my attention on Skype. Sad.
I remember clearly when I got introduced to Skype and I was ecstatic! Free International calls? Who wouldn’t be excited? My girlfriend at that time lived far away in Ottawa, Canada and it was what kept the relationship alive. I was always fascinated when I saw the indicator showing the number of people online and using it. I was part of a global community that had discovered the freedom of “Voice Over Internet Protocol”.
My big brother Austin on the other hand was very paranoid about security, he was (at that time) a Microsoft Solutions Architect. He refused to use anything that could bypass his firewalls and made it his duty and mission to find ingenious ways to block it. Austin did not trust any software from the same people who produced spyware laden Kazaa one of the earliest p2p (person-to-person) file sharing platforms. It is ironic that Skype has now been acquired by Microsoft and is now mainstream, accepted by the same corporations who once did everything to block it. It is interesting also now that most of my conversations with Austin are also now on Skype.
I actually use Skype to make more than just free calls these days; I use “SkypeOut” for paid calls as well. I have subscription bundles for countries and even use Skype Manager to allocate Skype credit to my wife and my mother – bad mistake, not advisable.
Skype can also let you use Internet on hotspots like Boingo and since your payment details are stored anyway, it can basically be used to pay for anything. I still wonder why Starbucks did not just buy Skype and allowed Microsoft to grab it.
Skype is an excellent platform for payments and if Microsoft does not see this opportunity they are truly done. They should just turn over and die. It already stores payment details so PCIDSS compliance is not an issue. It has encryption and it is available on mobile and desktop. It also accepts multiple payment types across continents and converts them to Skype Credits. Skype is already being used to pay for access time at hotspots so I don’t see why that functionality cannot be extended.
Google has pulled the mother of all stunts with Google Wallet for Gmail. It is definitely going to be huge as it is a no-brainer. They are also chasing Skype with “hangouts”. P2P payments fit nicely with the tools you use to communicate with people daily. I told someone recently that the day Whatsapp decides to add P2P payments, I will go back to farming as the game is over.
These platforms have tremendous reach and great potential. There is no point trying to build the next P2P payments platform when all these guys need to do is just add your entire product as a feature. The real opportunities for payments startups are in B2B (business to business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) and it is rapidly getting crowded. Maybe it is time to start talking to WeChat, Saya, 2Go and others.
The current state of the payment industry is pathetic. It is reminiscent of the early gold prospecting days by pioneers in California; totally chaotic. I believe that all the consumer wants is simplicity and if payments are already woven into everyday processes like messaging, there is a higher chance that they will use it than install yet another app or get another card. Maybe the messaging companies are the railroad barons of future payments.
If Microsoft does not see the advantage of using Skype as payments platform, they just leave a wide opportunity for Google Wallet to become the “Skype of payments”