Apps usually provide an easier user experience than programs on the Web, but the requirement of downloading the product means that a lot of potential users will not bother. That's why there's been a renewed push lately for browser-based versions of online services. For example, the popular instant messaging program Whatsapp introduced a version of its service that runs in a browser earlier this year. Even Apple is considering making its maps available on the Web, and you can already use its office software in a tab.
Now, Microsoft's Skype is joining the browser-based club. In a blog post, Skype announced that its Skype for Web will be available to anyone in the United States or the United Kingdom. I visited the site on Friday morning, and under the button to download Skype, there's a new link that lets you try out Skype for Web. It's listed as a beta version, which is Microsoft's way of saying all the bugs may not be worked out yet.
If you're already a heavy Skype user, you probably have the app on your phone or laptop. But for some people, Skype for Web could be a godsend. For instance, you may need to get IT approval before installing Skype on your work computer. Now you can simply use the program from a browser that's already installed.
Microsoft says that Skype for Web will support notifications, instant messaging, video and voice calls using a real-time communications (RTC) plug-in. Currently, the program works on Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Chromebooks yet. Microsoft says Skype for Web is heading to more countries in the "next few weeks."