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Dear Google and Facebook: You don't want Skype

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Open...and Shut The word is out that Facebook and Google are now considering partnerships with or acquisition of Skype. The big question, however, is what they'd do with it. As eBay discovered to its hurt, Skype isn't a product that necessarily plays well with others.

Skype-plus-eBay never made sense to me. Then eBay chief executive Meg Whitman argued that eBay auctions would be facilitated by buyers and sellers Skyping each other.

Except that they didn't.

One of the grand realities of the web is that while it helps to connect us, we don't actually want to be too connected. We type and text because we don't want to have to talk.

Facebook is the same. It's a fantastic way to lightly keep in touch with old high school friends, work friends, and neighbors. But if I wanted to actually talk to them, I'd pick up the phone. I wouldn't Skype. And, frankly, most of the time I wouldn't call at all - I'd text, a trait that is common to the youth-skewing Facebook crowd.

Skype is something I use for work. Apparently, I'm not alone in this, as Skype's business user demographic has grown consistently over the past few years. It is particularly big in Europe, as Skype's user demographics show, in part because Skype makes it cheap to make international calls to the US, for example).

And, while not universal, voice is more of a business requirement than a consumer requirement. Consumers want to text, or IM, or email. I'd actually posit that more people use Skype for instant messaging than for voice calls and, if so, a tie-up with IM-heavy Facebook or Google doesn't make much sense.

Skype is interesting because it has 30 million concurrent users. So that must be valuable, right? Yes, but not necessarily to Facebook or Google, which already have compelling visions of social that Skype does little to bolster. I'd see a better match for Skype in Cisco or AT&T than Facebook or Google.

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Strobe, a startup that offers an open source framework for building mobile apps. He was formerly chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears twice a week on The Register.

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