Tech Industry

Skype's 1,800-strong club

The Internet phone provider has 1,800 affiliates hoping to earn cash by selling Skype premium services.

Taking an increasingly pragmatic approach to its business, Internet phone provider Skype is now using affiliates to sell its voice mail service and other premium products.

Already, some 1,800 organizations have agreed to sell Skype's products in return for between 2 and 10 percent of the revenue they generate, Skype co-founder Nikklas Zennstrom said Monday.

Skype's larger agenda, meanwhile, is to better organize the profit-making side of its business, which came under scrutiny after customers criticized Skype's customer service.

"We hope we'll generate more revenue," Zennstrom said on Monday. "It's difficult to quantify just how much. But I'm confident it gives us growth."

Skype generates its revenue by selling premium services, which now include voice mail for $19 a year; SkypeOut, which lets subscribers make calls from the Internet to the traditional phone network for a few pennies a minute; and SkypeIn, which includes free voice mail and lets Skypers get incoming calls from the hundreds of millions of people who still use traditional phone services.

Skype gives away its chief productm, which is peer-to-peer software that allows users to make free phone calls between Internet-connected PCs, handhelds and cell phones. Since its release 20 months ago, the software has become one of the fastest-growing services in Internet history, and many believe it already has begun turning the traditional phone industry on its head.

So far, about 1.4 million people have signed up for SkypeOut. The company has not released the number of its SkypeIn and voice mail subscribers.