February 6th, 2009

Skype 4.0

Posted by Ben in Communications, General, VoIP, Windows


If you use Skype for VOIP calls, you should really upgrade to the recently-released version 4.0 (Windows-only so far). There’s a bunch of interface “improvements” (in my opinion that’s debatable) but the most significant difference is under the hood. Previous versions used Skype’s proprietary audio codec SVOPC but the latest version brings a supposedly much improved new codec called SILK.

Why should you care? Well, they say the new codec achieves almost 50% better audio quality for a given bandwidth, which should mean that all users experience better audio quality, but particularly those with slow or otherwise bad internet connections e.g. in Africa. If you’re running Windows (unfortunately it is the only version that has been upgraded to the SILK codec so far, as usual the Mac version lags behind) then it’s well worth the upgrade.

A few caveats though:

1. Even if you are running v4.0 you’re unlikely to experience the audio improvements unless the person you’re calling is also running v4.0, otherwise it’ll still use the older SVOPC codec. I verified this by calling a Mac user and it indeed still used SVOPC.

2. I’m guessing (but not sure) that the new codec won’t be used for Skype-Out calls to “real” phone numbers, only for Skype-to-Skype calls.

For more explanation of the technical aspects of SILK, take a look here and here.

Personally I still much prefer using SIP for VOIP calls to telephones, largely because it’s an open standard giving you a wide choice of different providers and you can do so many things with it that you just can’t with a proprietary system like Skype, also I just find the audio quality much better… but… it’s hard to ignore the already large user-base that Skype has.

Finally, if you hate the new large window that takes up half your screen, you can switch it back to the old look by going to the View menu and changing “Default view” to “Compact view”.

Skype Download


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