A while ago, probably a year ago, my system seemed to be running slow. Wondering what was sucking up my CPU cycles, I did the old <CTRL> <ALT> <DELETE> keyboard entry to see the task manager. I discovered that Skype, even though I had not used it in YEARS, was sucking up CPU time. It was, for some reason, part of my startup programs.

I have had issues with Skype in the past. For example, I frequently got requests from unknown people to add them to my contact list. That was annoying and, moreover, very suspicious. How did these people find me? This appears to be a common problem and, in fact, it is apparently easy (or was in the past) for a person to pose as someone else online, such as a friend or family member, or even a Skype employee, and ask for personal information.

So, I removed Skype from my startup programs, thinking that would solve the problem. It did not. Somehow (sneaky software) it was still running in the background. When I discovered that Microsoft had bought Skype, I knew why that was possible. So, I simply removed it entirely.

When my wife, Donna, began planning her trips to Peru and Chile, she was asked if she had WhatsApp so she could communicate with the companies she was dealing with. She did not, but installed it on her phone, as did I. When we experimented with it, we found it to be really powerful, especially compared to Skype.

So, what’s the difference between Skype and WhatsApp? WhatsApp was created for mobile devices, whereas Skype was mainly a computer-to-computer app that could call other phones as well. When the world started getting more mobile and when communication ground shifted from the office or home desk to the pocket, Skype somewhat lagged behind. Basically, if you want free calls on your smartphone, go for WhatsApp. If you want free phone calls on your computer, go to Skype.

Skype an estimated 1.33 billion users, as of 2017. WhatsApp an estimated 1.5 billion users, as of 2017. There are a number of reasons for the difference, but the main one is what I stated earlier – WhatsApp was created for mobile phones. The number of Skype users seems to have plateaued, whereas the number of WhatsApp users is increasing.

There is one feature about WhatsApp that I particularly liked – it can be personalized. WhatsApp lets you add a photo that the person you are calling or texting can see. So what, you may ask? Well, Skype does not (or did not, when I used it) have that feature. In fact, Skype uses nicknames to identify callers, whereas WhatsApp uses phone numbers. If you are smart enough, you can spoof phone numbers, but this WhatsApp feature lets you feel comfortable that the person contacting you is in fact that person. Also, whoever is in your phone contact list and uses WhatsApp, can be contacted almost instantly. You do not need any prior detail sharing, no nickname, and no IDs. This makes it quicker and easier to contact people using WhatsApp.

Anyway, the first thing Donna did was purchase a one-month international pass from T-Mobile. This gave her unlimited text and data wherever she happened to be. Since we were using WhatsApp to text and make phone calls, this was a perfect plan. You don’t need internet access to use WhatsApp, just an available phone line. Considering the remote places she visited, she was more likely to have a phone line available than the internet, so this worked out perfectly.

We texted mostly, but when necessary we called each other. You can also make video calls, but that sucks up bandwidth. Another WhatsApp feature I liked was the ability to record a voice message and send it as though it were a text message.

There is something else to consider – privacy. Remember, Microsoft now owns Skype. Facebook now owns WhatsApp. Both have privacy issues, BUT all Skype chats, voice, and video calls are now routed through Microsoft controlled servers. This means they can collect and monitor all information you send and receive through Skype. Microsoft’s Privacy Policy does not provide much detail as to how much data is collected. But we now know that the company does collect a great deal of Skype data.

In addition, the latest service agreement from Microsoft has language to prohibit using the service to “publicly display or share inappropriate content or material.” There are many problems with this policy that have policy experts concerned. The first problem is that Microsoft appears ready to check for this kind of material. To do this, Microsoft must be able to monitor content passing through their servers. It must be able to determine if it is inappropriate or offensive. This implies a capability of collecting and storing your information. Microsoft must also be capable of analyzing the content.

The truth is that, if you have expectations of privacy, you may be delusional. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try as hard as possible to protect your privacy.

There are other similar applications, but I know nothing about them. Feel free to chime in.