Apparently there is no such thing as a free lunch as Skype, the Internet calling service owned by eBay, which has offered unlimited calls to landline and mobile phones within the United States and Canada since last Spring. Skype is planning on charging an annual $30 fee for those same calls starting January 1, 2007 according to a recent NYTimes report. The report went on to say:
"The new annual fee for unlimited calling, while still nominal compared with other Internet calling plans, is part of a broader strategy by eBay to expand Skype’s product offerings and revenue."
I do not know how much $30 a year will affect people's decision to continue to use Skype since Skype is still going to be very inexpensive to the user. Personally, I probably will continue to use the Skype service or just limit myself to Skype to Skype calls. In a highly competitive web 2.0 world this could open the door for other services to take on Skype's current "free" calling model to differentiate itself from Skype when they do switch to a paid model. Interestingly, AOL offers a similar VOIP service to Skype called AIM Phoneline and also charges a fee for unlimited calling just like Skype's plans. It will be amusing to see if new services spring up with the free calling model.