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Right now, I think of it this way:

eBay is the catalyst to get Skype over "the chasm" (where nothing seems to happen) and into "the bowling alley" (where lots of things start to happen) (see Geoffrey Moore for the technology life-cycle explanations).

GoogleTalk and AOL's thang and Microsoft's thang are still in the chasm, but could get into the bowling alley as well.

Skype is certainly ahead of the game because of eBay's purchase, especially since it could lead to a lock-in type event. But the purchase by itself does not ensure success. That have an early advantage, but it's not durable just yet.

The advantage comes at lock-in. After lock-in (also known as Main St.), switching costs become too high and everyone else who was waiting on the sidelines piles in. This is also the time when the most value can be captured.

There is one more thing. eBay's management has experience in capturing network effects (eBay itself and PayPal). But so does MSFT and GOOG management (I am not sure I can say the same for AOL, but you could make the case the Case has experience there). This cannot be discounted and is another reason why the current advantage is not durable.

The funny thing about the history of capturing network effect is that a random event usually tips the network. Could the meeting in China between Meg, Janus and Niklas be that event? Hmmm ...

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