The Emerging Telecology of Social Networks and the Status Update

November 6, 2009

in phweet, VoIP

This time last week I presented at eComm. The title of my talk “The Emerging Telecology of Social Networks and the Status Updates”. A long title for profferring the view that “messaging” and “status updates” are central for the future of telephony. Afterwards I was asked a few questions and I thought I’d add a point of view here.

Why Twitter could usurp Skype as the future for telephony. This assumes that we make Twitter talk and use the approach suggested in my powerpoint above.

Number of Users:
Currently Skype dwarfs Twitter in terms of numbers. While claiming 500+million registered users the reality is not quite 20m are logged in at any one point in time and we have around 50 million per day that probably use it. Twitter by contrast is growing rapidly with much speculation around it numbers and user base. Safe to say it’s in the 10’s of millions but not 100’s of millions. (Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley quoted 55million recently)

However, for telephony there is a fundamental difference. You can only call on Skype when both users are logged in. (There are a few that when offline forward to their mobile – an insignificant number I think). So Skype has a built in design flaw and we see it in things like Twitter all the time. Search “Skype” on Twitter and you will find many messages saying get on Skype. This highlights the first issue. A rapid friction free escalation to a voice call on Skype requires both users to be online. Not surprisingly it is also common to text “can you talk now” as a query as the presence indicator is also effectively meaningless.

By contrast as proposed by Phweet Beta – Twitter has a set of remarkable advantages as a telecommunications starting point. First up. Twitter is merely a contextual signaling system. So as a signal it replaces the Skype click to call with a simple message. “mytwittername: +calltwittername* what you want to talk about”. This message has significant benefits. It links context to a call request. It’s a much less intrusive ringer than just calling out of the blue and enables the receiver to choose whether or not they want to escalate to a call. Unlike Skype the other user doesn’t need to be online. For Phweet provides the notification infrastructure. Call setup doesn’t require either party to be online. Thus Phweet can use Twitter SMS to setup calls, use any third party client etc. In fact there is no reason that a future Phweet cannot use Skype as a communications channel and that is part of the point. Users can choose individually the cheapest routing model.

Followers vs the Buddylist:
For communication outside your buddylist Skype is difficult. “Add contact”. In Twitter you can message anyone with a simple @message. Yesterday I suggested this was a little like a ringer. (However, to an extent the add contact and context for why want to add message is similar on Skype. Yet approval provides access until some future point when the Contact is deleted or blocked. Effectively a persistent connection and thus leaves one open to future breaches of privacy or unwanted interuptions. As a result Skype users limit their buddylists and the concept of rapid escalation with people outside the buddylist is effectively thwarted.

By contrast Phweet acts as the signaling broker. Phweet negotiates the exchange on behalf of the two parties. This also provides the opportunity for Phweet to “filter” requests and provide presentation controls on behalf of the receiver. This is impossible in the Skype and traditional model of telephony. Note in a Phweet/Twitter type telephony world it is easy to send a callme request to anyone (on Twitter of course) which can be escalated to a voice exchange if the receiver agrees without exchanging further details.

Phweet also offers the capability for persistent exchanges between individuals. It may also be a one-off a new URL established for each. Effectively Phweet directionally allows you to publish as many numbers as you want at no cost and manage each one differently.

My Identity: Yes Skype has a profile. Many of the aspects are similar to Twitter although I’d argue a Twitter profile provides a better sense of reputation, number of followers, number following, number of tweets, tweet content etc. Therefore it provides a better opportunity to “filter” the call requests. In the future callme requests can be filtered on many other criteria, context, location (eg close or not) etc.

I’m stopping on this topic today. I believe there are many opportunities to innovate around the status update, where contextual updates and “callme” requests are adopted just like RT or StockTweets $. At eComm Voxeo was integrating messaging with their more traditional voice solutions, while speech to text is being adopted in platforms like RibbitMobile. All of these solutions moving towards a day when we can 1)scan call request more effectively, 2)demand context before the call, 3)get out of calltrees by providing the problem before the call etc.

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