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Microsoft decides to support Skype Classic ‘for some time’ after users revolt

Skype Classic is not being killed off… well, not just yet. In July, Microsoft announced Skype 8.0 was launching on the desktop, and that it would be shutting down version 7.0 (aka Skype Classic) as a result. The older version would no longer function after September 1, 2018, it had said. However, the company has now decided to hold off on Skype 7.0’s shutdown for the time being, following significant user backlash.
In a post published to its community forum, Microsoft announced that support for Skype Classic would be extended.
It reads, in full:
*****UPDATE*****
Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.
Thanks for all your comments – we are listening. We are working to bring all the features you’ve asked for into Skype 8.
Watch this space.

Beyond the post itself, Microsoft isn’t sharing any further information about the closure or its plans. So it’s unclear at this time when Skype Classic will be closed down for good. From the sounds of things, however, Microsoft’s goal is to bring the features users are demanding to Skype version 8.0 before ending support for version 7.0.
Some Skype Classic users were so upset about the impending shutdown, they even started a Change.org petition, which pleaded with Microsoft to “keep the desktop version of Skype alive for professional users!”
The petition stressed that the way pros used Skype is different from a mainstream audience — the one Microsoft is now seemingly trying to court with things like @mentions and emoji reactions, and a more colorful and youthful user interface.
Professional users were especially concerned about their ability to have multiple conversations happening at the same time across several windows; about losing an app that offers high information density; and about not having control over the application for customization purposes, for example.
There was also a bit of general backlash against the various visual changes, seemingly inspired by other social apps.
As the petition noted: “a professional user know what he needs and what he wants, so do not add, change or remove something unless there is a overwhelming [sic] demand for a change from the current user base.”
To what extent Microsoft will address the needs of this pro user base are unknown, but it seems that until it comes to some sort of decision on the matter, Skype Classic will remain.

https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/07/microsoft-decides-to-support-skype-classic-for-some-time-after-users-revolt/

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30SecondsToFly's Claire Platform Streamlines Business Traveling

Startup 30SecondsToFly develops the Claire platform, which is essentially a virtual travel assistant that functions on AI technology to help small and medium-sized businesses manage their expenses. Claire makes business travel easy with its streamlined processes communicated to users -- it helps in booking travel within minutes. Claire can also access privately negotiation rates and tailors to satisfy each user's personal preference. If there were to be any issues during the trip, users can turn to Claire to help solve arising problems concerning their travels.

The platform allows communicative functions on every major medium including Skype, SMS, Slack, and Facebook Messenger. In terms of managing one's travel experience, Clare delivers detailed analytics and will organize expenses right to the company's expense management systems.

https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/claire

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Skype rolls back its redesign by ditching stories, squiggles and over-the-top color

Just over a year after Skype introduced a colorful, Snapchat-inspired makeover which included its own version of “stories,” the company says it’s now going to refocus on simplicity – and it’s ditching stories along the way. The redesign had been met with a lot of backlash. Skype had clearly wanted to appeal to a more youthful demographic with its update, but in doing so, it cluttered the user experience with features no one had asked for or needed.
One of these was “Highlights,” a feature that was very much Skype’s own take on Snapchat’s or Instagram’s Stories. With Highlights, Skype users were able to swipe up to pull up their smartphone’s camera, then snap a photo or record a video that could be decorated with typed or handwritten text, as well as with Skype’s own set of stickers. This could then be shared with individual Skype users, groups, or posted to the Highlights section of the app.

The company had argued at the time that the rise of stories across social media meant it was something that all social apps would adopt. And because it was the way people were used to interacting now, Skype needed to include the feature in its own app, too.
But stories, as it turns out, may not be as ubiquitous or as in-demand as a “news feed” interface – there are places it makes sense, and those where it does not. Skype is the latter.
In its announcement, Microsoft admitted that the changes it had introduced weren’t working.
“Calling became harder to execute and Highlights didn’t resonate with a majority of users,” wrote Peter Skillman, Director of Design for Skype and Outlook.

Instead, the app is introducing a simpler navigation model where there are now just three buttons at the bottom of the mobile app – Chats, Calls, and Contacts. Highlights and Capture are both gone. (If you actually used Highlights, you have until September 30 to download them to save them before the feature is removed).
There were already some hints Microsoft was planning to dial back its design changes. It recently announced it was keeping Skype Classic (Skype 7) around for an extended period of time, after its plans to shut the app down was met with overwhelming user outcry. It said then that it would gather more feedback to find out what it is that people wanted before forcing the upgrade to Skype 8.0.
With the new desktop version of Skype, the company now says it’s moving the Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications to the top left of the window to make it easier for long-time Skype users to understand.
Skype also toned down its over-the-top use of color in the app and introduced a Skype “Classic” blue theme adjusted for contrast and readability. It yanked out some of its goofier decorative elements, as well, like the notifications with a squiggle shape cut out, which it admits “weren’t core to getting things done.” (Ya think?)

While it’s good that Skype is now listening to users – it says it’s testing new prototypes across global markets and it launched a UserVoice site – it’s concerning that it had not done enough listening beforehand. If it had, it wouldn’t have released a version of its app that bombed.
Skype should embrace its “classic” status, and not feel the need to play catch-up with teen chat apps like Snapchat, or social media trends like stories. People use Skype to get things done – calling faraway friends, placing work calls, and even recording podcasts. Being a simple and stable voice and video calling app is one that can retain loyal users over time, and attract those who need to communicate across platforms without all the fluff found elsewhere.
The latest design is available in Skype version (8.29) for Android, iOS, OS X, Linux, and Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 operating systems.

https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/03/skype-rolls-back-its-redesign-by-ditching-stories-squiggles-and-over-the-top-color/

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The 'X1 Watch' Works with a Variety of Video Calling Services

Video calling has become commonplace on smartphones and laptops but hasn't shown up in the smartwatch market until now with the new 'X1 Watch.' The smartwatch supports Android and iOS devices, and is suitable for use with a number of video calling services like Skype to let wearers make calls directly from their wrist. The device can also be used as a cellphone thanks to the integrated SIM slot that will allow users to make calls, send text messages and emails without the need for their smartphone.

The 'X1 Watch' smartwatch acknowledges the expanding nature of the wearables market as consumers become more accustomed to the devices and seek to integrate them into their lifestyles at an accelerated rate.

https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/x1-watch

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New Skype features make sharing classroom experiences easier
Read more at https://educationblog.microsoft.com/2018/08/new-skype-features-make-sharing-classroom-experiences-easier/#KD61GUqY4AdX3vrC.99

As a new school year quickly approaches, many teachers and students are eagerly anticipating engaging in new Skype collaborative projects, virtual field trips and guest speakers. Recently, Skype released some new features that will make those connections even easier. To get them all, upgrade your Skype today and learn more here.
One new feature is the Chat Media Gallery. Files, links and photos shared through the chat are stored in the Gallery, making them easily searchable and accessible. People no longer need to scroll through their chat history to find a file. They can simply click on Gallery under the chat name to locate a file that has been shared through the chat.
Snapshots is another new feature. When people are on a Skype call, they can click the Snapshots button and a picture will be taken of all parties on the call. The photo will automatically appear in the Skype chat box for anyone on that call. This is a handy feature for classes doing a Mystery Skype or collaborative project. Their interactions can be quickly captured with a click of a button and shared on social media, with parents, or on a school bulletin or website. This is also a great way to capture the magic of a virtual field trip and share what the students learned in a school yearbook or email to parents.
A third new feature, Sharing Emotion, allows participants to click on an Emotion icon to cause it to automatically appear over the video during a Skype call. This is a fun way to communicate non-verbally during a call or to respond to a question during a Mystery Skype.
Skype Call Recording has just been added as a new feature, as well. It is cloud-based, and all participants in the call are notified when someone starts recording the call. It records everyone’s video, as well as any screens that have been shared. If there is a special Skype guest speaker or virtual field trip that a teacher wants to capture, or if there is a unique class-to-class Skype collaborative project, the recording feature is an ideal way to capture and preserve the learning experience.
These new features are a welcome addition to Skype and will further enable students and teachers to have engaging and world-changing Skype in the Classroom experiences!
Teachers: You are invited to explore all these amazing features here and start using them with your Skype in the Classroom activities.

Read more at https://educationblog.microsoft.com/2018/08/new-skype-features-make-sharing-classroom-experiences-easier/#KD61GUqY4AdX3vrC.99

https://educationblog.microsoft.com/2018/08/new-skype-features-make-sharing-classroom-experiences-easier/

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Skype Master Teacher empowers students with disabilities in an accessible, virtual classroom

For almost 50 years, Serbian primary school Dr Dragan Hercog has worked with students who have developmental disabilities. Helping reach these students for almost a decade is Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Skype Master Teacher Ivana Kovačević, through a program called the Distance Learning Project. It’s part of a broader effort to improve education for Serbian students with disabilities, and it has the support of the Ministry of Education.
To successfully prepare students with special needs for exams, and for the possibility of continuing education, teachers at Dr Dragan Hercog participate in the Distance Learning Project by crafting electronic materials—lessons, tasks, and tests. Then they meet the students where they are, holding classes in hospitals, students’ homes, as well as organizing tutelage via Skype.
“Skype, in combination with other educational materials, like educational platforms, is a good way for learning in every kind of situation,” says Ivana. “In my classes, I use Microsoft AutoCollage, Microsoft Photosynth, Windows Live Writer, Photo Story, and Sway in combination with Skype.”
A platform Ivana started to support the Distance Learning Project is Final Exam. This platform helps students prepare for their primary school final exam by strengthening their skills in both mathematics and the Serbian language. She received assistance from the Mathematical Society of Serbia, and when she tests students, she often uses Skype screen sharing to offer guidance when needed.
“The goal is to support students with disabilities in learning all subjects during all eight years of primary school, and prepare them for the final exam via Skype,” says Ivana. “Another long-term and wider goal is to successfully involve persons with disabilities in the education system and/or a social and business environment.”
Preparing the writers of tomorrow
To further help the students of Dr Dragan Hercog achieve a successful, rounded education, Ivana also started a literary club. For this club, too, she relies on Skype to enhance her students’ experience. “Every day during the school year, my students and I collaborate via Skype. Skype is our place for learning,” Ivana says.
Since 2008, the club’s main project has been to collect literary works written by the school’s students. Almost 50 of them have participated in the club, and they have written to date nearly 90 articles. The school promotes this collection of literary works—as well as the Children’s Cultural Center of Belgrade. Dr Dragan Hercog students attend these promotions on a Skype video call. “The students present themselves and share their impressions of the literary club and the collection of works,” says Ivana. “They talk about the club, writing, and friendship via Skype. They are all real writers!”
Virtual field trips with Skype
Another aspect of a rounded education that Skype enhances are what Ivana calls “method excursions.” “These excursions in teaching practice are proven to be effective,” she says, “because teaching language and literature cannot be reduced only to book learning.” But many of her students are in hospitals and homes and cannot physically go on method excursions.
Here, too, Ivana and her students rely on Skype for lessons and excursions—or virtual field trips. “Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom platform allows me to plan virtual journeys with my students that are meaningful, instructive, and interesting,” says Ivana. Their first virtual trip was to the National Museum in Niš. The curator told them about Constantine the Great and showed them bronze coins from the 4th century. “The aim of the trip was to write news, reports, essays, and stories about the trip,” she continues. “Our school principal Zoran Aleksić and English teacher Tijana Radisavljević provided great support.”
Skype is the bridge
The students of Dr Dragan Hercog also went on a virtual field trip while studying Nobel Prize–winning author Ivo Andric, whose story “The Bridge on the Žepa” they had read, studied, and discussed. “Students showed a joint presentation that was done for homework, via Skype as usual. The presentation was made in the form of posters using Microsoft AutoCollage (students previously became familiar with the program); they were collages of bridge pictures, student associations, information about the author, his work, etc.” says Ivana.
After studying the author, becoming familiar with his life and work, and sharing their knowledge, it was time for them to take their virtual field trip and make the experience come to life. “I made a Photosynth presentation when I was in Višegrad, on the bridge that inspired our writer to write the great novel The Bridge on the Drina, and the story ‘The Bridge on the Žepa’,” Ivana continues. “We talked about the story, its protagonists, the bridge, the destinies of the characters, the symbols, the beauty, the work as art, the meaning of life. Every feature of the bridge has its special symbolism. Bridges connect landscape and people. For us, Skype is the very bridge!”
The aim of Ivana’s work is to help students overcome barriers—students who, due to disabilities and distance, cannot attend classes. She helps provide a high-quality, stimulating, virtual classroom environment in which they can acquire new skills—and be encouraged by the possibility of a smooth transition into continuing their education.
“For our students, Skype is the only solution that makes sense!” Ivana concludes.

https://blogs.skype.com/skype-classroom/2018/05/17/skype-master-teacher-empowers-students-with-disabilities-in-an-accessible-virtual-classroom/

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The SAVEUR bot adds new flavor to Skype

At Skype, we’re always looking for ways to add a little more flavor to your life—whether it’s by adding new features or exciting updates. Today, we are partnering with SAVEUR magazine to bring you the SAVEUR bot—just in time for the holidays.
The SAVEUR bot will message you with delicious recipes every week and provide helpful tips and tricks to help you unleash your inner master chef. Just in time for Thanksgiving and end of the year celebrations, the bot will fuel your culinary curiosity and inspire you with new, seasonal recipes.

The SAVEUR bot adds new flavor to Skype

At Skype, we’re always looking for ways to add a little more flavor to your life—whether it’s by adding new features or exciting updates. Today, we are partnering with SAVEUR magazine to bring you the SAVEUR bot—just in time for the holidays.
The SAVEUR bot will message you with delicious recipes every week and provide helpful tips and tricks to help you unleash your inner master chef. Just in time for Thanksgiving and end of the year celebrations, the bot will fuel your culinary curiosity and inspire you with new, seasonal recipes.


To add the bot and start cooking, tap the + icon and then tap Find Bots. Search for Saveur and select it when displayed. Tap the Get Started button to add to your contacts.

With the SAVEUR bot, you can become the head chef on your own food adventure. Whether it’s learning about the science of food or planning a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, the SAVEUR bot can help you become better informed—and less stressed—in the kitchen. Tap into SAVEUR’s vast recipe database, and for the December holidays, message the SAVEUR bot to learn about making the perfect holiday cakes, cookies, and desserts.
Please visit our Community and send us your feedback. And if you want to learn even more about the new Skype, visit the Skype.com feature page. For quick answers, please visit the FAQs. And as always, continue to check back here for more news, announcements, and insights into everything happening with Skype.

https://blogs.skype.com/news/2017/11/01/the-saveur-bot-adds-new-flavor-to-skype/

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Skype launches Photo Effects – sticker suggestions powered by machine learning

Not content with merely launching its own take on Instagram and Snapchat’s Stories, Skype today is adding another copycat-like feature to its app: photo stickers. The company says it’s introducing new “Photo Effects” (as it’s calling these stickers), which include things like face masks, decorative borders, witty captions, and more. However, unlike the photo stickers you’ll find in other social apps today, Skype will actually suggest the stickers to use based on the photo’s content, day of the week, and other options.
The new feature is based on technology Microsoft introduced earlier this year in a silly camera app called Sprinkles.
The Sprinkles app leverages Microsoft’s machine learning and A.I. capabilities to do things like detect faces in photos, determine the subject’s age and emotion, figure out your celebrity look-a-like, and suggest captions. It then lets you swipe through its suggestions – for example, various props to add to your photo, funny captions, and stickers displaying its guess about your age, among other things.
Similarly, Skype will suggest its photo effects automatically with a press of a button.
To use the feature, you’ll first snap a photo then tap the magic wand icon at the top of the screen to access the photo effects.
As you swipe right through the suggestions, you’ll be prompted to add things to your photo like a smart face sticker, the weather, your location, a caption that references the day (e.g. “turn that frown upside down, it’s taco Tuesday!”), face masks, a celebrity look-a-like, or even a mystery face swap.

Microsoft says these photo effects will change often – like on different days of the week or holidays, for instance.
The resulting image can be shared with Skype friends in a conversation or posted to Skype’s new Highlights feature, which is the Instagram/Snapchat Stories clone introduced earlier this year.
Like Stories on other platforms, Highlights are somewhat ephemeral. But instead of lasting a day, they’re available for a week. They’re also not shared with your entire Skype network – only those who have opted to follow your Highlights directly.
Highlights remains a mobile-only feature for now. When Skype’s revamped interface launched to desktop users in October, Microsoft told us Highlights was not a priority for desktop integration at this time, based on user feedback. However, the company insisted it still aims to bring Highlights to the desktop in a later release.
The addition of Photo Effects is arriving on Skype for mobile users in the latest update. Skype’s release notes list Photo Effects as “upcoming” in Android version 8.10.0.4 and iOS 8.10.0.5. This version began rolling out on Monday, but will gradually release to the install base over the next week.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/08/skype-launches-photo-effects-sticker-suggestions-powered-by-machine-learning/

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Annual Skype-a-Thon celebrates the power of connection

The countdown to this year’s Skype-a-Thon has begun. The annual celebration of the power of connection is set to take place November 28–29, 2017. Through stories, games, guest speakers, and collaboration, students around the world will open their hearts and minds to become energized, engaged global citizens.

Students today are more of a global community than ever before. The walls of the classroom have expanded to connect them with cultures and environments near and far that offer diverse perspectives and help them model compassion for one other, the environment, and the health and welfare of neighbors all over the world.
The Skype-a-Thon is a two-day learning event where we—as a global community—count the virtual distance students travel during Skype calls made November 28–29. Classrooms can use Skype to take virtual field trips to popular landmarks or other places of interest, or to connect with guest speakers in fields of study where local experts may not be available—as well as unite with nearly half a million students worldwide! Last year, 9.8 million virtual miles were traveled—this year, the goal is set at 10 million.
Learn how you can make a Skype call with another class, a Microsoftie, or a guest speaker during this year’s annual Skype-a-Thon. Share your plans, goals, and your Skype-a-Thon experiences on social media using #SkypeaThon and #MicrosoftEDU.
To learn more about Skype in the Classroom and how to join this year’s annual Skype-a-Thon, visit www.skypeathon.com. For even more ideas on how you and your class can participate in the Skype-a-Thon, see this blog post from Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft.

https://blogs.skype.com/skype-classroom/2017/11/07/annual-skype-a-thon-celebrates-the-power-of-connection/

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Discord steals gamers from Skype with video chat and screensharing

Discord wants to destroy its biggest, best-funded competitor in the battle to be the communications layer for gaming. It wants to be the home for gamer clans strategizing and trash-talking with each other. After out-gunning its gaming-specific competitors like TeamSpeak, Mumble and Ventrilo with a secret $50 million fundraise earlier this year, Discord is setting its sights on Skype.
Today Discord expands beyond text and voice with the launch of video chat and screensharing. Now friends can watch each other play their favorite games while talking face-to-face. These features could further addict Discord’s 45 million users, 9 million of whom use its web, desktop and mobile apps each day.

“This is the most requested feature on Discord probably a year running,” says CMO Eros Resmini. “A lot of infrastructure had to be built up for this launch,” he warns, though, since the video features run at a remarkably smooth and crisp 720p at 30 frames per second. Skype runs at half that FPS. My briefing with the company was held over its new video chat, and it looked much better than what’s standard.
That’s why only 5 percent of users will get video today, and it will only work with groups of up to 10 people. Embodying Discord’s playful style, the company explains that “It’s possible that we’ll need to completely turn off video calls during this test. If you find the feature is missing all of a sudden, we suggest you lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling until it’s fixed.”
If the video launch goes smoothly, Discord could snatch gamers from its competitors that either lack video entirely, or do screensharing poorly like Skype, as they weren’t built for conveying rapid-fire action with sharp graphics. One big thing that’s lacking is sound from screenshares, which Discord will need to figure out.
Video chat could be a stepping stone for Discord to start competing with massive one-to-many broadcasting channels like YouTube and Twitch.

From gamer to game developer to Discord
Discord was originally a game developer itself, making the critically acclaimed but publicly ignored mobile battle arena Fates Forever. “We couldn’t figure out how to get over the hump on the monetization side,” Resmini says. So in late 2014, it started tinkering with other ideas.
CTO Stan Vishnevskiy had been dreaming of a tool like Discord. “I played MMORPG [Massively multiplayer online role-playing games] 15 hours per day,” he told me, and was dissatisfied with TeamSpeak and Mumble. Those required IP addresses that could be attacked by trolls, rented servers and clumsy apps. “Can we make a 10X project? Low-friction usage, no renting servers, beautiful design we took from mobile.”
Discord launched in May 2016 and has been a rocket ship ever since. It’s now raised a total of $79 million, including the $50 million round led by Index Ventures in January 2017. The 70-employee startup now handles 200 million messages per day and up to 4 million concurrent users as groups chat about World of Warcraft, OverWatch, League of Legends and Clash Royale.

The startup earns money from $5/month subscriptions to its Nitro tier, which gives users cosmetic upgrades and a few bells and whistles. “Discord has made the promise to our user base of keeping the core Discord experience free,” says Resmini. But the company is considering launching in-app purchases to enhance the new video features and earn some extra cash.

Don’t equip the trolls
The company insists that the majority of its users are gamers chatting with small groups of friends, where someone calling someone else a colorful, profanity-laced name is more a joke than a harassment issue. But there are some larger public servers for entire sub-Reddits where people discuss topics beyond games, and Discord has unfortunately found itself used by hate groups to coordinate trolling and harassment.
“We focus on giving people tools and controls so they never get in a situation that they’re with a stranger that’s doing something you don’t think is OK,” says Resmini. “You can block folks, you can leave places, you can remain in a private space.” The team also relies on users to report abuse to its team trained to quickly banish harassment, doxing and other problems.
Some startups, like subscription crowdfunding platform Patreon, have taken a relatively permissive approach to dealing with hate-mongers, and decline to comment on incendiary topics like Gamergate. That’s why it was encouraging to hear Discord speak candidly about its disapproval of the alt-right and sexism in the gaming business.
“Their ideologies aren’t welcome,” Resmini declares. “We don’t like people that act that way, people that harass people. We’re on the side of gaming that’s a positive community. That’s an inclusive community.”

Still, Discord won’t proactively jump in unless there are abuse reports. “We don’t read people’s private servers. We believe in privacy at Discord. The censorship thing is something we’ve stayed away from. We think it’s a very slippery slope,” Resmini admits. But once hatred surfaces, it’s comfortable dealing out lifetime bans and deletions of servers.
If Discord ever wants to become a mainstream communication tool for gaming culture that’s grown increasingly popular worldwide, it has to keep things clean and friendly, even if that means friends laughing while they swear at each other. “Some of the happiest times of my life have come from gaming,” Vishnevskiy concludes. “And things that make me happy, I want to bring to others.”

https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/10/discord-video/
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