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Skype has long been the byword for VOIP calling. But now it wants a share of the instant messaging market, too.

With the launch of its new app, Skype Qik, the company is allowing users to share 42-second mobile videos that are automatically deleted from the receiver’s phone after 2 weeks. There are also 5-second ‘Qik Fliks’ for even shorter communications.

Sounds similar? The resemblances with existing platforms are plain to see. Photos sent over Snapchat self-delete after a few minutes; Vine specializes in sharing 7-second long videos; Qik is even adopting the square picture ratio made popular by Instagram.

But Skype cannot expect instant success the video-messaging market. Snapchat now supports 15-second video sharing, which can be only be viewed once, and it’s surely only a matter of time before WhatsApp gets in on the game too.

So why is Skype launching Qik now? One clear reason is to drive more frequent usage. Although GlobalWebIndex’s research across 32 countries shows that nearly a quarter of the global mobile internet audience aged 16-64 is using the Skype app on a monthly basis, Skype calls are typically made rather infrequently. In contrast, instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat are geared towards much heavier usage levels.

Another reason is Skype’s desire to appeal to the coveted demographic of instant messengers. If we look at Snapchatters, for example, more than half of the adults using it are 16-24. And in a market like the US, over 4 in 10 teens are using the app.

Overall, though, the launch of Qik should be seen in the larger context of Microsoft’s campaign to make its mark on the mobile market – a space in which Skype’s existing presence provides a huge potential audience.

While a name like Snapchat is ahead of the Skype app in the US, Skype is much more popular in fast-growth markets. More than 6 in 10 mobile internet users in the Philippines and UAE, as well as about 50% in India, currently use the Skype app. As a result, we have to imagine that Skype is looking to Qik as a way to replicate the success that WhatsApp has enjoyed in these countries (two thirds of mobile users in India are now WhatsApping, for example).

So, just as Skype made internet calling routine, it’s in an ideal position to bring video instant messaging into the mainstream too.

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