Skype gains business reviews, expertise marketplace

Skype launched a new version of its IM and 'Net telephony software that adds two features to foster user involvement and community.

Skype has released a new version of its Internet telephony and instant messaging software that adds a feature to let users create business reviews, and another one to sell expertise, as the eBay subsidiary promotes interaction among its users.

Skype 3.1, available for Windows, features SkypeFind, designed to let Skype users post and find reviews of business establishments. It also introduces a test version of Skype Prime, a marketplace where Skype users can market knowledge and advice to others.

The company unveiled SkypeFind last month in a beta version of Skype 3.1. Already, SkypeFind contains around 4,500 listings from 124 countries and Skype expects it to have over a million listings by year's end.

Meanwhile, Skype Prime made its debut last week in another prerelease version of Skype 3.1, as an expertise marketplace open to both individuals and businesses interested in selling their advice. Unlike SkypeFind and Skype 3.1, Skype Prime is still considered to be in a beta, or test, phase.

With these community-oriented features, Skype wants to deepen the engagement of its 171 million registered users and extend the scope of the product beyond its core telephony and IM functionality.

Allowing end users to participate in online services and share material including photos, videos, anecdotes and opinions is a cornerstone of the Web 2.0 era and has become a principle that most providers of Internet services are embracing.

User participation is the fuel powering the intense popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube, photo sharing sites like Flickr and social networking sites like MySpace.

The Skype 3.1 page contains more information about the new and enhanced features, as well as downloading instructions.

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