On 14th October this year, Skype launched their shiny new Skype Qik service, a mobile based video messaging service. Qik itself is not new. It was originally launched back in 2007 as a web and mobile based video sharing and conferencing service but was bought out by Skype in 2011 for an undisclosed sum, somewhere between $100m and $150m. The service was discontinued in March 2014.
And now it’s back. The new Skype Qik service is mobile only, designed to work on Apple, Android and Windows phones. It allows instant video messaging between groups or individuals and the Qik Flik feature allows the user to record and store 5 second GIF-style responses for when a simple response is needed but not practical to record (presumably to mimic the tradition of silly GIFs that are the internet’s stock-in-trade). That’s all the app will store though. Any video messages will be automatically deleted after two weeks, with no option to save them. Video messages, in a nod to Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hikers Guide series, will only be 42 seconds long.
The big question that needs to be asked is this: What does this offer the marketplace? There are already video messaging technologies out there, but Qik is uniquely placed. It is simple, instant and available on the majority of mobile devices (except for Qik Fliks, which aren’t available on Windows phones at the moment or the ability to ‘block’ contacts, which the iPhone does not yet support, although updates are in the works to remedy this). The app uses your mobile’s contacts list, meaning that you can message anyone that you know the mobile number of. Even if they don’t have Skype Qik installed, they will receive an SMS telling them how to download and install the app, giving them instant access to your message. It all sounds pretty positive.
But who will use it? Will sending a video message be ‘better’ than an email or an SMS? Will it be easier? Or is this little more than a gimmick, a largely pointless technology that will only be used by teenagers and tech geeks?
Hopefully not. Qik offers a simple, easy-to-use, free (and ad-free) service that is aimed at allowing asynchronous video communications across the majority of mobile platforms. No longer will you need to wait for your scheduled Skype conference, nor will you have the hassle of figuring out the best time to arrange a group conference call with your business contacts in New York, London and Tokyo. Just send them a Qik message and they can respond as soon as they receive it. In theory, this will allow greater and easier communication between you and your partners, colleagues and customers.
Incidentally, you can also delete any messages that you have already sent from the recipients’ phones, so any ill-advised drunken rants can be safely removed from the cloud, hopefully before they have been seen!
It obviously remains to be seen how much impact Qik will have on the marketplace, but it seems perfectly placed to capture the ground between SMS and video conferencing in a way that Apple’s FaceTime and similar technologies (with the exception of Snapchat) have consistently failed to do.
Speaking of Snapchat, the recent security issues that have been brought to light may help Qik grab a healthy handful of the market. The ‘Snappening’, according to Snapchat themselves, was the result of the use of third-party apps and websites, rather than the Snapchat app. Snapchat have pointed out that use of these third-party apps is in contravention of their terms and conditions but this has not helped alleviate the public backlash against the company. That this happened right before the release of Qik may prove to be a boost to the new app, picking up all the disillusioned Snapchatters (or whatever they are calling themselves), or it may be damaging to their chances, with people moving away from video messaging over concerns about the security of their messages. Skype have been keen to point out that they do not store any user videos longer than the two week limit.
Whether Qik is the video messaging app the world has been waiting for remains to be seen, but the uncertainty of the marketplace could make or break it. Whatever happens, we will be watching with interest.