Skype has just gotten a major overhaul from the ground up. The new Skype not only offers a much more social experience with its many features, but also brings in a new monetization angle, where businesses can connect with customers that want it.

Microsoft Skype – 1, Facebook’s WhatsApp – 0

Microsoft may have just pulled the rug from under Facebook’s WhatsApp by re-building the Skype application from scratch. The social elements are intuitive and intelligent, but the biggest change is that Skype has officially become more of a chat application than a video calling tool. In addition, there are some very strong commercial elements that have been brought into the picture – something WhatsApp should have done a long time ago.

Social Aspects of the New Skype

The first big change is customization. Users can now make their Skype app unique with their own choice of colors – definitely a first for Skype.

The next big change is the way the layout has changed. As Microsoft says on its Skype blog: “chatting is front and center.” Group chats are a lot more expressive and personal, with users being able to share media and other content, as well as specific location details and so on.

Emoticons have been given a more prominent role in the new Skype app, with the reaction icon easily accessible next to a message or video call.

A new feature called Highlights is being introduced in this new Skype avatar. Highlights is essentially “a highlight reel of your day with photos and videos, so you can share everyday moments.”

Simply swipe to access the camera, then take a photo or video and post it to your Highlights tab. You can also send media directly to a particular contact or a group. Your Highlight is accessible by your contacts, and they can quickly post an emoticon or initiate a conversation right from there.

A new Find tab brings search functionality to Skype, where you can search the web for whatever you need. And Add-Ins give you a wide choice of applications to link to your Skype account. Bots bring the final integration element, and you can use bots created by other companies to get a bunch of information about their products, pricing details and so on.

This last element is something that Facebook has been planning for WhatsApp for some time now, but they’re moving dead slow because WhatsApp users are finicky when it comes to changes. It’s a relatively new and fast-growing platform, and Facebook doesn’t want to upset the applecart. But are they officially too late, now that Microsoft has released this new version of Skype that’s everything WhatsApp should be by now?

Facebook isn’t one to balk at imitation. They’ve been doing it for long enough now, imitating features from Chinese social app WeChat, and even their own frenemies in the United States, Snapchat.

Microsoft’s move has been swift and decisive. Skype already has a massive user base that the company can cash in on, and the addition of the commercial element is potentially a gateway to billions of dollars in monetization by various means.

We’re going to keep an eye on this to see how it’ll shape up vis-à-vis user engagement. In the meantime, you can get the new Skype from the official downloads page, for Mac, PC, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, smart wearables and smart TVs.

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