Nordic inventions: Skype and its patented communication technology

Georgina Horváth
May 23, 2024
Reading time:
3 minutes

Through our series of Nordic inventions, we aim to highlight pioneering inventions from the Nordic countries. In this article, we explore an invention from a Swedish and a Danish developer, Skype.

The invention of Skype revolutionized the way people communicate, bridging distances with the power of the internet. This groundbreaking technology not only introduced a new era of voice and video calling but also demonstrated the transformative potential of innovation in the digital age and the power of intellectual property. 

In this blog post, we delve into the history of Skype's invention, the technical development behind it, the vision of its founders, and the profound impact it has had on communication technology. 

The vision of Skype's founders

Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennström from Sweden and Janus Friis from Denmark. The duo had previously collaborated on Kazaa, a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service, and they saw the potential of this technology to disrupt traditional telecommunications. 

Their vision was to create a platform that allowed people to communicate freely, bypassing the high costs and limitations of conventional phone networks. With the help of a talented team of developers, including Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, they turned this vision into reality. Skype's user-friendly interface and free-to-use model quickly attracted millions of users worldwide.

Technical development behind Skype

The history of Skype begins with the innovative use of P2P technology, as the first name, Sky Peer-to-Peer, suggested, which was later changed to the name we know today. This technology allowed two or more computer systems to connect and share resources without the need for a separate server or server software. The key to Skype's success was its ability to transmit voice data over the internet using this P2P architecture. 

By leveraging the power of decentralized networks, Skype enabled high-quality voice communication that was both reliable and efficient. The technical breakthrough came from developing a protocol that could traverse firewalls and network address translators (NATs), which were significant hurdles for earlier VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) applications.

Patented technology behind Skype

The success of Skype was also underlined by its strategic approach to patents. Early on, Skype's developers recognized the importance of protecting their innovative technology. They filed patents for various aspects of their P2P communication protocol and other technical features. These patents helped Skype establish a competitive edge and defend against the risk of its technology being copied. One of Skype's key patents was the method for the NATs technology, which was crucial for ensuring the reliability of their service. 

Impact on communication technology

The impact of Skype on communication technology cannot be overstated. Before Skype, long-distance and international calls were expensive and often of poor quality. Skype's introduction of free voice and video calls over the internet democratized communication, making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This innovation paved the way for the widespread adoption of VoIP services and set the stage for modern communication platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

By 2010, Skype had over 600 million users, highlighting its role in transforming global communication. In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion. Under Microsoft's ownership, Skype was integrated into various Microsoft products and services, enhancing its functionality and reach. Despite today's increased competition, Skype remains a widely used communication tool, continuing to evolve with new features and improvements.

Effective intellectual property renewal

The creation of Skype is a clear demonstration of the power of innovation and its capacity to transform industries. From its technical breakthroughs to the vision of its founders, Skype has left an indelible mark on the world of communication. 

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