Ebay buying WHAT for HOW MUCH?!?

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Ebay just announced they’re buying Skype for $2.6 billion dollars. Here’s the press release.

For those of you who don’t know what Skype is…exactly. That’s the point.

Skype is a free (FREE) online phone service so you can instant message with people, except you’re actually talking to each other instead of typing. It’s like free long distance. Free. Sounds like a huge moneymaker, right?

But wait, it gets better. Skype is not compatible with any of the other online voice chat services out there like Google Talk, Yahoo Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, etc. There are tons out there – all … free. Free. FREE. Most of them are better than Skype.

And if you divide out the number of Skype users, Ebay is paying about $1,000 per user for Skype. A thousand bucks per person for a service that gives stuff away for free. Well, wow, of course it makes sense! What a deal!

It’s like I woke up in 1999. These numbers are totally disconnected from reality. Skype has no synergy for Ebay. I’ve bought and sold around a hundred things on Ebay, and every now and then I get questions from bidders via email. I have never gotten a single question via instant messaging, even though my instant messaging info is on my web site and on my auctions. Ebay wants to integrate voice services so buyers and sellers can talk to each other easier, but here’s the thing: they could do that for free without buying a company. All they have to do is offer to partner with any of the voice-over-IP companies out there, and the companies would leap at the chance to partner with Ebay and get their name out there. Ebay wouldn’t have to spend a cent. Much less two hundred sixty billion cents.

I’ve talked this over with other geek friends and none of us get it. Either Ebay’s really got a wild product up their sleeve, or they misstumbled badly. When they bought Paypal, all of us got it. None of us get Skype.

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