Yesterday, I saw Skype followed by six letters in an e-mail with the sender's contact information--his name, telephone number, and e-mail address. It piqued my interest. What the heck is Skype?

According to www.webopedia.com, Skype is a computer program that can be used to make free voice calls over the Internet to anyone else who is also using Skype. It's free and considered easy to download and use, and works with most computers. Once you download, register and install the software, you'll need to plug in a headset, speakers or USB phone to start using Skype. "It is reported at www.hoovers.com, the Skype program has been downloaded more than 200 million times.

Skype is one of many available Internet telephony applications also known as VoIPs (voice over the Internet products) that don't a charge per minute fee and the users just pay their monthly Internet usage fee.

John Wiley is publishing "Skype For Dummies" in September 2006. It will cover call forwarding, voice mail, and conference calling and explains the various paid add-on Skype features including SkypeIn (a real phone number for callers, but the call comes in on Skype) and SkypeOut (allows for calls to regular and mobile phones from Skype). Don't worry about the book becoming obsolete because there will be a dedicated Web site that will keep it up to date as new features are added.

I also found in my Internet travels that eBay acquired Skype Technologies SA, the provider of Skype, in a multi-billion dollar purchase late last year. So why was eBay willing to pay so much? eBay CEO Meg Whitman indicates in a conference call, "Skype will accelerate the velocity of trade on eBay." It is anticipated to help eBay in areas that it has had trouble penetrating, including real estate, travel, new-car sales, and expensive collectibles. It also will be available to current eBay sellers as an addition to their e-mail sales model.

I would tell you more about Skype, but you see here at work, I can't access www.skype.com. There is a company-wide program that prevents access to certain Web sites, usually gambling and pornography, so that employees won't be spending their company work time involved in non-company activities. I guess VoIP company sites are also no-nos.

Isn't technology grand? Look at all I learned after briefly surfing the Web. By the way, I got dibs on "Skype: PracticalAccountant"--my future "telephone" number on the Web.

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