Skype has been available as a mobile app and desktop app for a while, but now, for the first time, you can access the service's web-based client in order to instant message and video call your friends.

The web app is now available as an open beta, Microsoft has announced. The beta first debuted last year, allowing certain people to test it via an invite-only system, and now everyone can join, so long as they're living in the US or UK and using one of a few specific browsers on either a Windows or Mac machine.

The web app also requires a browser plug-in for certain features, which you can read all about below.

Skype for Web is essentially a full-featured, web-based version of Skype.

You would use Skype for Web if you’re away from home, for instance, and don't have access to your smartphone or your computer. You could also use it if you just don't want to install the native app on your device.

Go to Skype.com (or web.skype.com) in your web browser on a Windows or Mac computer, then sign in with your Skype ID and password, and click "Try Skype for Web beta". A "Get started" screen should then pop up, and after that the web app will finally open. There is no need to download the Skype desktop app.

Yes. Skype for Web only works with one of the following desktop web browsers: Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. The web app will also ask you to install a plug-in before making or receiving your first video/audio call.

Although Skype for Web works with Chrome, it does not work on Chromebooks. The lack of support for Chrome OS is not much of a surprise, considering Microsoft and Google are rivals. By not allowing Chromebook users to access Skype, it makes Chrome OS devices seem incapabale of being a full-featured computer replacement.

  • Video calls, instant messaging and audio calling
  • Automatically loads all your contacts and conversations in the browser
  • New timeline view on left (has a single, searchable list; makes it easier to start and find conversations)
  • Notifications (you’ll need to enable them when you sign-in) -even if you’re using another app or viewing a different website in another browser window.

Microsoft said Skype for Web is now live in the US and UK. The company will also continue to roll-out Skype for Web worldwide over the next few weeks.

Pocket-lint's Skype hub has all the latest information about the app. You can also check out Microsoft's blog post on the beta for more details.