How Skype’s golden opportunity zoomed past

World

How Skype’s golden opportunity zoomed past

This should have been the video call app’s moment to shine, but Microsoft messed it up

James Titcomb

Howard Hartenbaum is one of a few people to have what was once a rare and sought-after asset: a Skype username that is simply his first name: “howard”.

Back in 2003, Hartenbaum was living in Luxembourg and working for Draper Richards, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. He was trying to get hold of Niklas Zennström, then known as the brains behind filesharing application Kazaa.

It was not an easy task. Kazaa, which at peak times was responsible for 40% of internet traffic, had become a global sensation, used by millions to download mp3s for free, and the record industry was trying to sue Zennström for billions of dollars...

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