Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync and Office Communicator) is an enterprise software application for instant messaging and videotelephony developed by Microsoft as part of the Microsoft 365 (formerly Office) suite. It is designed for use with the on-premises Skype for Business Server software, and a software as a service version offered as part of 365. It supports text, audio, and video chat, and integrates with Microsoft 365 components such as Exchange and SharePoint.
The software was previously named Lync before rebranding to Skype for Business in 2015, co-branding it with the Microsoft-owned consumer messaging platform Skype (which had begun to integrate with Lync in 2013). Despite the same branding, Skype for Business and Skype have almost nothing in common and function as separate platforms.
In September 2017, Microsoft announced that it would phase out Skype for Business Online in favor of Microsoft Teams, a new cloud-based collaboration platform. Support for Skype for Businesses Online ended in July 2021, although a new version of Skype for Business Server will be available with a subscription license.
Microsoft released Office Communicator 2007 to production on July 28, 2007, and launched it on October 27, 2007. It was followed by Office Communicator 2007 R2, released on March 19, 2009. Microsoft released the successor to Office Communicator, Lync 2010, on January 25, 2011. In November 2010, the platform was renamed Lync.
In May 2013, Microsoft announced that it would allow Lync users to communicate with Skype, a consumer IM platform it had acquired in 2011. This initially included support for text and voice communications. On November 11, 2014, Microsoft announced that Lync would be renamed Skype for Business in 2015, also adding support for video calls with Skype users.
On September 22, 2015, Skype for Business 2016 was released alongside Office 2016. On October 27, 2016, the Skype for Business for Mac client was released.
On September 25, 2017, Microsoft announced that Skype for Business Online would be discontinued in the future in favor of Microsoft Teams, a cloud-based collaboration platform for corporate groups (comparable to Slack) integrating persistent messaging, video conferencing, file storage, and application integration. Microsoft released a final on-premises version of Skype for Business Server as part of Office 2019 in late 2018, and announced in July 2019 that the hosted Skype for Business Online will cease functioning on July 31, 2021. Since September 2019, Skype for Business Online is no longer offered to new Microsoft 365 subscribers, and are being directed to Microsoft Teams instead. The next version of Skype for Business Server will be available with a subscription license.
The Basic features of Skype for Business include:
Advanced features relate to integration with other Microsoft software:
Note: With the release of Lync Server 2013 in October 2012, a new collaboration feature "Persistent Group Chat" which allows multi-party chat with preservation of content between chat sessions was introduced. However, only the native Windows OS client and no other platform supports this feature at this time. The main new features of this version are the addition of real-time multi-client collaborative software capabilities, (which allow teams of people to see and simultaneously work on the same documents and communications session). Lync and Skype for Business implement these features as follows:
All collaboration sessions get automatically defined as conferences, where clients can invite more contacts. Conference initiators (usually called "organizers") can either promote participants to act as presenters or demote them to act as attendees. They can also define some basic policies about what presenters and attendees can see and do. Deeper details of policy permissions are defined at server level.
Following Microsoft's acquisition of Skype in May 2011, the Lync and Skype platforms could be connected, but sometimes only after lengthy provisioning time.
Skype for Business uses a number of extensions to the SIP/SIMPLE instant-messaging protocol for some features. As with most instant-messaging platforms, non-Microsoft instant-messaging clients that have not implemented these publicly available extensions may not work correctly or have complete functionality. Skype for Business supports federated presence and IM to other popular instant message services such as AOL, Yahoo, MSN, and any service using the XMPP protocol, although support for XMPP has been deprecated in Skype for Business 2019. Text instant-messaging in a web browser is available via Skype for Business integration within Exchange Outlook Web App.
Although other IM protocols such as AIM and Yahoo! do have wider support by third-party clients, these protocols have been largely reverse-engineered by outside developers. Microsoft does offer details of its extensions on MSDN and provides an API kit to help developers build platforms that can interoperate with Skype for Business Server and clients.
As of May 2018, the following Skype for Business clients are available:
Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile apps were discontinued by Microsoft in May 2018.
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