Is Skype a social network? Microsoft's dark horse has legs...

Why isn't Skype considered a social network? Take a look at its characteristics... It could turn out to be one of Microsoft's savviest investments.

Should Microsoft's Skype be counted as a social network? It certainly fulfills many of the same functions that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

You can set a status 'mood' message, you can text message, use it as a group chat system, you can share files, photos, your computer screen. Plus, you can talk with people plus make video calls, and set up video conferences with several people. And do it all on very thin upload bandwidth. It's a very impressive service.

Skype has a huge and active user base, more than 30 million people are using it at any one time, and there's close to half-a-billion user accounts.

So why isn't Skype in the media and blogger conversations about social networks? Why aren't it's numbers of users counted by social media analysts? Is this a failure of Microsoft's PR people? Probably.

- It wouldn't take much for Microsoft to add a few bits and pieces to turn Skype into a full fledged social network with all the bells and whistles. And with many additional advantages.

- It's much more natural for me to share photos and videos with family and friends via a Skype relationship because I'm talking to them there anyway.

-Similarly, using Skype to share work with small groups of business colleagues feels natural, and there's no need to create 'circles' and special groups.

- The structure of Skype makes it easy to keep my activities separate from each other and from others. There's no need to set and reset privacy controls. Privacy is baked in.

- Skype isn't trying to publish every aspect of my online activity all the time, wherever I am.

- Google doesn't get to spider Skype content, and that means there's no need to fight SEO spammers who are looking to boost their search ranking.

- There's no advertising.

- Most people find Skype easy to use while lots find Facebook and Twitter confusing.

- Even though most are "users" and pay nothing, Skype isn't trying to monetize them, the revenues from the premium users are shared to cover everyone's use.

- I'd rather keep my mom engaged on Skype than have her on Facebook and that's also true for a lot of my family.

- And it's a good place to engage in business because Skype is a distraction-free environment, it's well suited for work. I'd love to see collaborative apps in this environment.

Skype has the potential to be the dark horse in the social network platform battles. And it's high time for it to be included in this conversation.