Skype is releasing Qik, a standalone self-destructing messaging app.
Skype is releasing Qik, a standalone self-destructing messaging app.

Story highlights

Qik is a new messaging app from Skype that lets people communicate with video clips

Like Snapchat, the clips eventually delete, so there's no archive of conversations

This is Skype's first standalone spinoff app

CNN’s coverage of Web Summit, in Dublin, looks at how technology is changing the world.

CNN —  

A lot has changed since Skype made its debut 11 years ago. Younger users aren’t satisfied with lengthy video calls on computers anymore. They want to communicate in small bites throughout the day, sending texts, selfies, gifs, emojis and “Yo”s from mobile devices.

To keep up with the times, Skype launched the ephemeral messaging app Qik on Tuesday. The free app sticks to Skype’s video roots while borrowing heavily from the Snapchat playbook.

The standalone app lets you send videos up to 42 seconds long to a single person or a group. They can then respond by recording another video clip or with a prerecorded five-second video. The clips in the resulting back-and-forth “conversations” can be replayed for up to two weeks, at which point they disappear. Video clips can’t be shared outside the app, and if someone deletes a video they sent, it will disappear from the recipient’s app as well.

To make it simple, the app, available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, doesn’t require users to sign in with any account. It just uses their phone number and then looks for contacts in their address book.

Skype’s video calls are still hugely popular, but mobile devices have upended how people communicate. More than half of Skype’s new users every month sign up from smartphones and tablets, and during the day, there are times when more people are using Skype on a mobile device than on a desktop or laptop.

The company, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2011, is competing against social networks and an assortment of messaging apps. They include Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, as well as traditional texts and instant message apps.

“There’s a different social contract to how we communicate these days,” said Dan Chastney, Qik’s principal program manager. “It’s really changing behavior, where you’re not worried if the person on the other end is available to talk to you.”

Most recently, there’s been a rise in ephemeral messaging, in which photos and words automatically delete after they’re viewed. Snapchat may have popularized the trend, but the desire to have communications that aren’t archived forever echoes the real world.

“I wouldn’t want somebody recording every conversation I have in a bar,” Chastney said.

The company thinks that not saving everything will help some people loosen up and become more comfortable with asynchronous video conversations.

“We didn’t want people worrying about having to look perfect on camera or that a message recorded might be taken out of context later,” Chastney said.

Apps that automatically delete messages can give a false sense of privacy. Skype is careful to avoid selling its new product as a security tool, like more security-minded competitors Wickr and Cryptocat. That might be a smart move after recent news that more than 100,000 Snapchat photos were intercepted and leaked. Qik’s creators say it isn’t meant as a high-security method for holding important conversations.

“The goal of the app wasn’t to have this super-private, super-secure communication,” Chastney said. “It’s for having casual conversations.”