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Skype's Disruptive Branding

Last night there was a strong case put for "branding" as part of winning strategy for building business around Social Networks. We know it's critical. The imaginative fusion of personality and productivity create great brands. Then I discovered Abe's post on the "The Idiot Savant - Friendster Triumphant" and Marc's comments. It reinforced for me the strong "personality and polarlization that the founders of Skype have already provoked. It's getting press and reminders:

Allan Karl and Dina Mehta with more comments on branding:

Success can go to one's head. As such, fundamental strategic and tactical common sensory (sic) goes out the window. We saw what happened to the intense accelerated growth with Friendster. And it appears Skype is the latest social network wildfire. But out of control it's just a fad. Reigned in and focused it could be a solid brand, build equity and offer founders and users intense value. This isn't revolutionary. But it's certainly evolutionary.
[for the sake of clarity - The Digital Tavern]

With the ever growing number of social networks, it is likely to be the more human brand personalities that define the relationship users will have with each, the strength of loyalty and pointers to differentiate one network from another. Conversations with Dina

Similarly the product itself is creative. It's not IM. It is IM. No it's not. etc.... So via Dina's blog Forget Work, IM Is for Scheming, Flirting, Gossip. Another way of looking at the clear the pragmatic use for IM are made on Ulises blog. He asks me:

Does it have to be either/or? We are talking about two different technologies with two distinct sets of characteristics, and potentially two different uses. Expecting that people will leave AIM, Yahoo and MSN for Skype is overlooking some of the features that text-based IM affords that voice-based communication doesn't." I d e a n t: Skype: Voice vs. Text

I do concur. When I made this statement the other night. I fully expect people to leave AIM, Yahoo and MSN for Skype. Skype's already carrying a profile. It could be made significantly richer and I'm sure progressive disclosure could be enabled quickly.....

I had in mind a vision of what could be done with the Skype profiles. I've alluded to profiles in this blog before and argued for soft human ones. This is only partly a voice vs chat thing. The phone is ultimately more entrenched in our culture than IM. Skype may bring more people to recognize the significant benefits of text chatting. Similarly, IM users will be slow to give up a chat system if the substitute doesn't at least match its functionality. My comments were really based on a deeper belief that P2P systems will ultimately win and that as they transform commerce new markets and better tools will be created. That is where Skype's disruptive creative branding might really show.

This is quick mind dump of the logic. At best a hypothesis. Still suspend disbelief and consider versus everything from MS to SBC whether Skype or a similar product for the consumer market will radically change the rules. Hey lets make it up as we go!

  • Ownership. Consumers have a greater degree of control. We can swarm on Skype or another system. Ownership and the profit model (is there one?) will determine the service. Consumers perceive more control over "THEIR" data in this environment.
  • Profiles. Skypes decentralized "who's online?" will foster scraped directories. The core directory can be built on my everything from verification services though to social networks that individuals plan to participate in. Really why play on Friendster another service can tell you which Skypers want a date. Audible intros? Listen and call?
  • eBayization of Communications: Imagine an eBay style of market. Skype or its future decendents facilitate connectivity. Having access to their supernodes pack will give you access to confernce calls while the additional opportunities are in the added functionalities. Just like Auctionwatch, PayPal, Andale, etc. Now think about everything from 900 numbers to online helplines. Everything that a telephone company ever bundled is now up for grabs.
  • Stupid Network. David Isenberg has talked about this for years. The economics are not in the MSN solution. I'm not sure they are even in the Vonage solution with a centralized directory. Doesn't 30--40% of communications co's cost go on sales and marketing? I don't see that being spent by Skype. The core... needs very few people.
  • Sound Quality: It's simply better than the phone to faraway places. I'm sure the headset issues / phones are already solved with many new solutions on their way. I'm already thinking about a bluetooth headset. I'd also like to know if anyone can Skype yet from a WiFi enabled PDA?
  • Brand: The brand records of all the players is simply lousy. I've already commented on the Skype brand. It' going to have to do a much better job to foster trust to be "the people's" telephone company. If they can't work it out. Someone will. There's a David n Golaith story in this.
  • Real Names: Having a persistent voice presence requires real names or numbers we know. Voice really is more important. Here P2P telephony is likely to differ from the identity proliferation that exists on Yahoo etc. For it to be useful and to find others... it is easier to use real names. Skypers that want it to grow will demonstrate that it is safe. If you want to reach out and talk to someone new you don't give them a fake identity. While I'm yet to see IM messages from unknowns opening the door to Bill Gates. Pretty difficult on the phone too... :)
  • Always on: For many IM is sporadic. It's an on and off again thing. That's the generation that really doesn't know how to use it. This generation understands that telephones have to be on all the time to work. So if they want the lower costs that this might bring. the All of Us consumer community must collectively work to be always on. Bring costs down!!!! Share your "own" number or handle --- It's your choice.
  • Experience / Behavior: Voice/chat is also just reflecting on the behavior and expectations. It's a step forward. It's big enough to make people think about their computer in a new way. When I IM someone I may or may not get a response, my words probably went though. They remain words I don't get intonation etc. When I Skype someone the phone rings I'm in a listening response mode --- are they busy, happy to hear from me etc. In a millisecond I'm more in tune.

    And finally Gary Burd asks:

    .... another Internet telephony application, has found a way to handle the NAT problem:
    Non-firewalled clients and clients on publicly routable IP addresses are able to help NATÕed nodes to communicate by routing calls. This allows two clients who otherwise would not be able to communicate to speak with each other.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Skype. Will Skype users with direct Internet connections be happy about giving away bandwidth to Skype users behind NATs? Will they even understand that this is happening? Gary Burd: NATs and Internet telephony

    Yep I think they will. Just like they are giving away WiFi. Get ready --- it's creative destruction! As noted in other places there are many forms of innovation. This is transformational and matches Schumpeter's concept of a "historic and irreversibe change in the way of doing things." Tranformational innovations tear at the social fabrics and the economic markets.

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    » Skype P2P VoIP App: One in a Million? from Blogcritics
    Skype is fast approaching one million downloads and it isn't even out of beta. Is it a one in a million app? [Read More]

    » Skype P2P VoIP App: One in a Million? from Blogcritics
    Skype is fast approaching one million downloads and it isn't even out of beta. Is it a one in a million app? [Read More]

    » Skype P2P VoIP App: One in a Million? from Blogcritics
    Skype is fast approaching one million downloads and it isn't even out of beta. Is it a one in a million app? [Read More]

    Comments (1)


    OK, I have been examining Skype. I have also used the ham radio voip called EchoLink (it is only for hams of course).

    Here is how my first experiment resulted:
    I used 2 machines (made my music folder play and put the mic on the stero mixer and set it up to receive only friends and auto accept call. Then called it from the other machine and ....

    My personal music machine (or mic machine, or police scanner machine, or always on connection to my system from anywhere.

    Cool, huh...

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