Skype Qik aims to take over mobile video messaging

A new app that's as simple as texting

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Qik started off life as an online video-streaming app almost seven years ago, beating YouTube to streaming video directly from mobile handsets. The impressive technology and mobile focus caught the attention of Skype and led to Qik being acquired a few years ago. While Microsoft retired the original app in April, it’s returning today as a lightweight video-messaging app: Skype Qik.

There might be countless video-messaging apps like FaceTime or iMessage in iOS 8, Snapchat, Glide, Facebook Messenger, and even Skype itself, but Microsoft is betting on a simple mobile app and the Skype brand to make its own solution stand out. Skype Qik couldn’t be more simple if it tried. You install the app, use your mobile number to sign up, and then you’re messaging with friends as if you’re texting, but it’s all video. There’s no chat, no audio, or anything else, just pure video messages. To make things even easier, if your friend doesn’t have the app you can still send them a Skype Qik message and they’ll receive an SMS with instructions on how to download Skype Qik. Any video messages will be waiting for them.

"We’re responding to the big trends in the industry," explains Piero Sierra, Skype’s director of mobile. Those trends include mobile, an explosion of communications, and a shift to asynchronous conversations. People aren’t waiting to have video calls at a specific time or messaging each other and waiting hours for a reply: it’s all instant and real-time in 2014. "We wanted to make sure we had something in between those scheduled Skype calls that is light, fun, easy to use, and fast. That’s why the name Qik resonated with us."

NEW QUICK AND SIMPLE VIDEO MESSAGING FOR IOS, ANDROID, AND WINDOWS PHONE

Skype Qik is truly quick. You swipe down from the home screen of the app and you’re thrown immediately into the video interface where you can freely switch between front- and rear-facing smartphone cameras while you’re recording. There’s no preview or waiting for the video to process, it just sends immediately to a friend or a group of friends you have set up. You have 42 seconds to record, a subtle nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and video is sent in a square format to recipients. Microsoft thought about adding text-messaging options, but Sierra explains that the company wanted to stay focused solely on video messaging. "The point of this is to have video conversations, especially with groups of people." It’s also built entirely for mobile. There’s no tablet version of Skype Qik, or even PC or Mac clients, it’s available only for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.

Skype Qik screenshot

Skype Qik also has a unique feature that allows you to control video messages even once they’ve left your phone. If you’re part of a group and you send a video message you don’t like and you realize instantly or a few days later you can just delete it and it will disappear across all of your friend’s phones. It might just help prevent the lasting effects of embarrassing situations or drunken video messages. Skype Qik messages are also deleted automatically after two weeks, and there’s no way to save the videos within the app.

Skype Qik Fliks are your very own GIFs

The idea of simply video messaging won’t appeal to everyone, though, and Microsoft has built a Qik Flik feature that lets users record a five-second video that can be stored and reused in situations where you might not want (or be able) to record a video message. Qik Fliks are similar to GIFs, and Microsoft is clearly tapping into the culture of creating and sharing silly YouTube videos and reaction GIFs. While the Android and iOS clients can both send and receive Qik Fliks, the Windows Phone version can only receive them for now, until an update is released in the coming months.

It’s too early to say whether Microsoft’s bet on Skype Qik will be successful, but it has elements that might help it become popular. The simple UI, convenience of using a mobile number, and cross-platform support are what helped WhatsApp grow quickly to more than 500 million users. Skype Qik has similar simplicity, mobile number convenience, and the essential cross-platform support, so it has a solid foundation to build on. For most people video messaging will be just another option in an existing messaging app, but in a world where consumers, especially teenagers, are more and more willing to share every moment of their life in a picture or video, perhaps Skype Qik is positioned to take advantage of just that. Skype Qik is available immediately for iPhoneAndroid, and Windows Phone.

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