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September 2004 Archives

September 1, 2004

Skype Birthday Letter

Belated Birthday wishes to Skype who just turned one. As I post this there are 625,000 users online. The numbers in Skype's first year letter are interesting. Despite what Kevin Werbach says I think Skype is the largest effective VoIP network. The other IM systems still can't substitute for a phone call. In a second piece of news it was noted that Skype has about 100000 paid up customers for SkypeOut. That is a respectable number for a month. It also cost them a lot less than Vonage!

At the same time they have released Skype for Mac OS X Beta and I've made my first calls with Mac users. Hurray!

Over our first year in operation, the number of broadband users globally has passed the 100 million mark and continues to grow rapidly. Skype has approximately 9.5 million users, consistently more than 500,000 people connected via Skype at a given moment and more than 1.5 million users per day. Skype customers have already spent more than 1.2 billion minutes engaged in free Skype-to-Skype calls. More than 2 million SkypeOut calls have been initiated. Skype
100000 in SkypeOut
Skype isn't the only VoIP product of its kind, but it has by far the most users. SkypeOut has about 100,000 customers, Zennström said, generating what he hopes will be the beginning of a solid revenue stream. MercuryNews

September 2, 2004

Social Networking More Manifesto Thoughts

Of all the summaries of my little attempt at a Manifesto for Social Networking I found this one from Christian Crumlish the most helpful. He took my 1437 words to just a few. I'd clip it further and focus on the mine and hub element now.

  • It's my Network

    • I own it.

    • Social networks should empower people.

    • I am my own hub.

    • Ease data exchange

    (I'd make amendment to some of these following points now. They were really part of my rationale for the above. The most important aspect of is is what we can and will do with this new connectivity as it emerges. I hope it doesn't result in spam and does lead to new consumer controlled information markets.)

  • My Blog is Better at Networking

  • Create Markets for Connectivity

  • Adopt user centric models
    Encourage Face to Face

  • Integrate with IM / VoIP

  • No to Accelerated Spam

It's incomplete without adding.
  • We understand that relationships based on trust are not always explicit and categorization is neither a requirement or necessity for participation. In fact we embrace individuality and expect it to emerge from the information we exchange.
  • We want control over our presence, our whereabouts and what we are doing. While and when norms emerge we understand they will change over time and with the audience.
  • We recognize we are each part of many different networks and conversations. We may have difficulty articulating them and yet under the right conditions new sources of unexpected value emerge.
  • We control when it is appropriate or not to share infomation about ourselves. We retain permission and determine the level and degrees of privacy we desire and will share with those that we trust
  • We share to create utility and opportunities for all of us to grow. As our networks expand they will encourage new emergent forms of sharing and discovery. Agents and Initiators are an important part of the network when linked to reputation, trust and relevance.

    I made the direct link to blogs too strongly. I should have stuck with "I am my own the hub". What was meant as a decentralized illustration for knowledge sharing takes on too large an importance. Blogs and text are not necessarily requirements for Social Networking.

    A great strategy is really central to solving the puzzle. The comment via SSW reflects my belief that accelerating learning is the real payoff. This quote sums it up.

    In this brutal competitive market that we face today, the only conversations that matter to businesses are " Where can we find and collaborate with customers and business partners in our quest for Strategy Innovation ". And the new social networking technology (weblogs and social software) is our best chance to make this vision a reality. Itīs true that is not yet good enough but I think it` will be in no time. Eric Rdz - The Social Software Weblog

    I've taken some flack for appearing too blog centric and believe we need to go farther than the comment below. While meeting people is a dynamic in social networking today this post suggests we look to other possibilities resulting from this new connectivity. I'd applaud such initiatives. For the most part the current crop of SNS are broken. They are being "loaded" and then forgotten. Social networking shouldn't be hard work.

    Henshall often implies that social networking is about the meeting new people connotation of the word "networking". There are uses of social networks beyond meeting new people. This fact is indeed recognized by the statement My social networking solution will enable me to connect and exchange with family (assuming the author doesn't want an SNS tool to meet new family members). However the paragraphs "Create Markets for Connectivity" and "Encourage Face to Face" fall back into the social software analysis pitfall of equating social networking with meeting new people.

    ... It would also be interesting and insightful to see some analysis on what kind of social network product will be popular with people that don't have the time to professionally blog nor desire to meet new people. Michael - The Social Software Weblog

    I'd like to see more discussion around static versus dynamic systems. I feel that IM, telephones (old world) are very important.... So are tools like blogrolls and touchgraph. A better dashboard would help. At the moment it requires too much inquiry, rather than just a quick visual update. I think that means we are looking for "living networks".

    .... in my 34 years of work in communities f2f and virtual, the most important variables to the effectiveness of social entities have been presence, commitment and contribution. However brilliant the structure - technical or organizational - what makes a network work is the purpose and active involvement of its members. Networks form organically or out of the selection of an initiator, and their social composition is like the quality of their fuel. Linkedin serves me as a locator and somewhat trustworthy profiler. It does not serve my conversations or information sharing. Comment Cliff

  • September 8, 2004

    PC Cess Pools and DIYIT

    I'm afraid that the enthusiasm for Decentralizing IT may just be the dream of some techies who want to choose their tools. Frankly if I walk round my neighborhood and look into the garages and check out the tools that really get used we kid ourselves if we think those that have their lawns mowed are going to get out a spade and do some digging. What brought this on. This little clip:

    One aspect is that the people previously known as consumers can not only source and modify their own tools if IT fails to serve them -- but arm themselves with information to influence what should be group decisions. Especially as social agreement on how to use a tool is a determining factor for realizing productivity gains. Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Decentralizing IT

    There are days when I want to embrace the DIYIT thrust and I still see control accelerating to the network edge. However by the standards of my friends I am very tech oriented. What I do day in and day out they won't do and have no interest in. Far from hoping for a panacea for decentralized IT this past weekend was an exercise in cleaning up the home network. It lives at the edge and my family had turned some of these devices into dumping grounds for ad software and viruses. After a day I finally had them almost back to normal. Still Norton failed to automatically erase all the viruses and after another evening poking around in the registry and the temp folders I can finally say we are "clean"! This I'll add was not a job I wanted to do, it made me mad and was a complete time waste. I also know that the PC's in this house are better cared for than many.

    So the real problem is the majority have no idea what goes on in their PC's AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THEY DON"T WANT TO! Like the telephone you just want it to work. Instead if they are not managed they go out of control. When I spend time fixing things I am just like the DIYer and the home car mechanic. However for me one major difference emerges. Fixing shit in PC's is not the same as driving with a new set of brakes or building a new trellis and then sitting in the shade. It's also more time consuming, (like waiting for paint to cure sometimes.) as the hard disks go over 100gb and yet another reboot. So as we are rush towards a world of home networks, home entertainment systems, increased file sharing there is a good risk that we will end up with PC cess pits everywhere.

    I'd like to know what amount of time we think consumers (those previously known as) will really spend on either fixing their networks or DIYIT. For the most part it will be very little.For now we survive on a diet of Norton Anti-Virus and Windows upgrades SP-2 that take ages to install. If we only knew how many hours of babying these things needed we probably wouldn't want them at all. At least by contrast my cellphone doesn't yet require the same sort of reboots, virus control etc. Then they aren't exactly on open networks and even there spam is increasing.

    I don't believe that even a large minority will pay much attention to the tools or their selection. They don't have time, and don't want the hassle. Let a few do the sifting to improve what we have so the rest of us can just adopt it.

    September 9, 2004

    Exit Strategy

    I'd missed Exit Strategy by Douglas Rushkoff until it landed on my desk this week. It's a late 20th century satire complete with footnotes from the open source online edition chosen by the author. In a quick flip I discovered this one and liked it.

    "Until 2020, most computer software was still produced with encrypted code. This meant that only the company that published and owned the software could modify it! It was an anti-evolutionary posture adopted by most of the software industry that stunted technological development. Current analysis indicates that by 2009, computer software was thirty years behind where it would have been had open source been the dominant development model." --- Sabina Samuels

    Now for a little pleasure reading something different.

    Although the book takes place in the near future, the text itself only "surfaced" online in the 23rd Century. The entire text is annotated with footnotes so that terms like "Microsoft" and "NASDAQ" make sense to the future reader who, presumably, lives in a world beyond such things. :: Douglas Rushkoff ::

    September 14, 2004

    A Year Skyping and….

    I've been writing of and on about Skype for over ONE YEAR. That makes me a Skype Oldtimer. There have been some lessons and opportunities in it for me. At one time I was described as a consumer evangelist and others have questioned why I've blogged it so much. After a year and I don't know how many posts I'm still sure that it is a disruptive innovation. From my perspective Skype is also still missing some real marketing nous. And by that I don't mean spending dollars. Some cause marketing could be introduced, better incentives for sign-ups (eg PayPal initially) and a membership program, etc. I'm not paid to prioritize these things or paid at all….

    First a year ago and then another mini-rant on the latest incarnation of the website.

    One year ago:
    Sometimes it is simply nice to know you have helped something forward. On my first day of using Skype I wanted an “Online” SkypeMe and put the request in the blog. Not long after it arrived. They also hopped on creating an online community pretty quickly. That has been a huge asset to them and created a community in itself. A more recent example is to play up statistics and be seen in the Millions n Millions served idea now on their webpages.

    I also said then : If you are like me scanning for early indicators --- looking upstream from time to time to see what's coming then Skype and Big Champagne are two "signals" that the world may be moving in this direction. When I mentioned Skype to George Por today he kindly referred me to an article by Michel Bauwens, "Peer to Peer -from technology to politics to a new civilization". It was the first time I'd heard the meme "P2P Civilization". I rather liked it.

    I've also had the odd blog rant at Skype and the founders. Usually from a marketing perspective. On the numbers after a year they have done very well when compared to other VoIP networks, many which have been going much longer. Lucky for them the PC to PC version really works. Similarly just by tracking Feedster for “Skype” will show anyone that Skype remains a very positive first experience. The challenge for Skype remains one of communicating that Skype is part of a people's telephony and communications led revolution.

    After a year and a recent revamp to their site they seem to be more corporate, less fun, much cleaner, and frankly more off message. The P2P Telephony that just works claim is less obvious, with news story updates off the front page. New platform releases are newsy but the story here should be what Skypers do. They spend hours connected….. They connect when it is convenient, they make calls to far away landlines for just cents. And much more… all that is today!

    The branding issue here is being lost to technology. Skype is part of a new communications lifestyle. It began with people in far away places and it's created all sorts of new connections. The joy and ability to connect and join the Skype generation isn't on the page. The quotes, not quite visible enough. There are still no instructions on getting to be a Skyper. There is nothing to overcome the early buddylist blankness and encourage people through it. Some more sharing by users about their experiences could be added in.

    This would all be made a lot easier if Skype had a blog and the community forums had RSS feeds. And no these are not just geeky wishes. I know the majority won't even recognize it. However Skype is in the real-time communications business, it's an always-on company made possible by Skypers. Many Skypers would enable a Skype news feed as a tab in Skype. What may start of as a blog could become a very different community asset overtime.

    Thus part of this branding and marketing role is education, and product strategy that enables easy transition to new applications when empowered or enabled by Skype. The example above just confirms to me that art of Skype is in broadening the conversation. The next iteration of both the website and the product must engender to do that.

    September 15, 2004


    Recent links on P2P.

    One application I can already predict is a micro-Napster like file sharing system, which streams instead of shares files based on these breakthroughs. So with only 128 megabytes of memory you could have a decent jukebox to share with people Om Malik on Broadband: When P2P Goes Mobile

    We chose file sharing to illustrate how SIP can be used to build an alternate P2P application, but file sharing itself is not the point --- file sharing, of course, has been done. EarthLink SIPshare demonstrates that it is conceivable that voice over IP, where voice is just content of a different form, itself can be implemented using SIP in a fully standards-based P2P network. In other words, the effect of Skype, but with one important difference: using standards-based protocols, as EarthLink SIPshare does for content sharing.
    Mr Blog

    Grouper is a P2P software application that allows users to share their personal media within private groups. Using P2P technology it connects users directly to friends hard drives allowing the sharing of large files in an encrypted environment. The Social Software Weblog

    I stumbled across an interesting group today, at www.onlinestatus.org, which provide a free service allows its users to indicate there presence on the major instant messaging services: namely, AIM, ICQ, IRC, Jabber, MSN and Yahoo. I added the status indicators... Get Real: r

    Unlike other social software, AllPeers does not rely on a central server. Instead, users manage their profile and other information and media locally. Users can choose precisely with whom they want to share specific information or files. The Social Software Weblog

    But the Internet brings us a new kind of software: software that's about human-human interaction. When you're writing software that mediates between people, after you get the usability right, you have to get the social interface right. And the social interface is more important. The best UI in the world won't save software with an awkward social interface. It's Not Just Usability Joel on Software

    The SkypeIn Challenge

    In the last few days the visibility of telephone "numbers" and their importance has been appearing in blogs. From personal experience and checking what VoIP services can offer this remains a huge barrier to change. Rich Terani writes about transferring his home number with Vonage (failed!) and I know that I couldn't get one in my area. Few ITSP can provide numbers for all regions, in fact in some countries they are now assigning unique area codes for VoIP numbers. In all these cases one big issue emerges.

    As consumers we really don't like changing our number, maybe if we move, but even then I know people that have cellphones and still don't change their numbers. So what is the difference between Skype and and the more traditional VoIP offerings? First you can choose your "handle" (some exceptions still) and no one currently outside the Skype system can call you.

    One of the issues facing VOIP providers is their inability to obtain ordinary telephone numbers. Telecommunications carriers must be state certified in order to obtain numbers (technically numbering resources). Mr Blog Entry - 09/10/2004: Battles over phone numbers brewing

    Sell the integers off. Throw in # and * for good measure at no extra charge. Let someone manage each area code, each different string length. Use them to name your dog, count lamp posts, give them away as birthday presents. Anything, as long as the market price is reached. Not enough 9-digit codes left for everyone to have a phone? No problem, the serialized birthday card market is roaring. And the taxpayer makes a windfall from selling a non-exclusive right to zero (figuratively and literally). Telepocalypse: Maggie Thatcher's number's up?

    It's true that massive adoption, such as Skype is now experiencing, has a way of trumping standards. It's also true that a viable voice-call alternative "that just works" is a necessary precursor to the new breed of voice-and-data applications that we need and want. But if cheaper calls aren't the endgame, and if it's the apps that ultimately matter most, then shouldn't the mechanisms for creating those apps be built in rather than bolted on? Jon Udell: VoIP interop: built-in or bolt-on?

    Today an increasing number of consumers have softswitches in the home with VoIP services like Skype. But more people can use these services with the convenience of mobile phones that can leverge Wi-Fi, there is a need to phone home, or through home. This would let you route around last miles, captured locations and roaming long distances. Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Personal Softswitch

    So my beliefs:

    Skype needs a P2P interconnect solution to the traditional landline. That approach will cure two consumer issues with Skype. First consumers want to be able to use their cordless phones with it, despite the drop in audio quality. Then second they are scared. Scared to lose their access to 911, scared that the phone won't work in a power cut, scared to lose their number and be locked in to a new service. P2P is important as the consumer will invest in infastructure and that investment will also introduce the long promised premium services.

    Reduce the barrier to adoption: The current barriers is not only your number tranfer but also the commitments for ATA boxes when one signs up. There are early cancellation fees if the product doesn't work. If you are lucky you can return the proprietary ATA box and get some money back. So there is a monetary threshold where risk and adoption become easy.

    Easy access to the local free calling area. If you keep your landline for many countries the pricing structure means that local calls are free. Thus Skype's play will be long distance. The payoff for connecting to the landline is cost savings (prepaid long distance minutes), the retention of the customers current landline number and a likely

    Realizing this is not as simple as it might sound. I've presumed that Siemens has been working on it for ages. Still one can work through the routings and see that Skype has a challenge to solve if they are to leverage and capture all my long-distance minutes. Plus we want it all in one device. I shouldn't have to buy an addional cordless phone plus a box (the ones I tried many months ago failed).

    Ultimately consumers don't need numbers, and in fact many now seldom dial a number. Many cellphones are look up and click, and Skype is click to call. Numbers are antequated. Point n Click Search is probably the replacement. So numbers are transitory. They are part of an established power game. Companies like Vonage have played into their hands. Skype by contrast needs some smart handset vendors to help them out and get SkypeIn working.

    With SkypeIn connected to landlines without telecom approval VoIP callers can have their cake and eat it too. That's a world in which Skype ends up trumping standards. It's also an area that mobile operators are watching. With new fast cellular networks coming onstream and Wi-Fi expanding Skype's potential for mobility increases. The options for pure play mobile operators are also interesting when one thinks about how to give your mobile phone an "extension". I'm the classic case of not using my cell when at home. I'd use it more and pay more if it could just replace my business Vonage line by linking my mobile to Skype.

    Ah Minutes and Minutes Served

    Ah so blogging does have impact. Skype adopts my Millions and Millions statistics suggestion.


    From my earlier post....

    One thing I've always wondered is why Skype doesn't embrace better statistics. Many years ago McDonalds actually counted the number of people served. Then one day it became billions and billions and all of a sudden that statistic no longer was relevant. Yet in the early days it provided a nice measure of success. By contrast Skype's number of downloads, registered users and number online is not enough to fuel a community and give it perspective. Communities play an important role in both generating and providing statistics.

    I'm not alone in noting the implications.

    Well, have you seen Skype's home page lately? They now have a VoIP minutes counter that draws parallels to McDonald's "number of people served" counter. McDonald's "number of people served" was a brilliant marketing ploy. Tom Keating

    September 16, 2004

    Skype vs iChat

    In today's issue of Business Week there is a plea for Jobs to get into the phone business. Frankly, it is too late for Jobs to heed the call. This shallow article misses the point entirely. Arguing that iChat and Apple should now be in the phone business is a failure to understand the emerging infrastructure. If Apple had responded to Skype a year ago like they thought through iTunes they may have had a chance. My take is that there is no play from an iChat vs Skype perspective. Bet the Apple fanatics won't buy that. Then maybe they never heard of universal service.

    BW Online, 07/09/03, "With iChat, Who Needs a Phone?"). Skype blows away iChat in terms of voice quality. My recent test drive of Skype for OS X led me to conclude that it's time for Apple to start a phone network -- Macphone, if you like.BW Online | September 16, 2004 | Why Jobs Should Heed VoIP's Call

    “Powered By Skype”

    Let's step back for a moment. Skype's business model is dramatically different to the traditional telecoms. For the most part all the hardware required to operate the network is owned by the individuals using the service. Thus unlike traditional telecoms there is no need to build out infrastructure, new users simply bring it to Skype. In that way it is similar to the Seti at Home project.

    Increasingly I think of Skype's potential like a low cost electrical utility. Compared with telecoms which have had little innovation in handsets the electrical grid enables thousands of different appliances. Electricity is also similar in that it is “always-on” and you use it in real-time. The switch and control remains with the user.

    A year ago Skype was just another IM client with a voice-centric bias and tremendous audio quality. People said no-one makes money at IM or in free telephony. I have quotes in my Skype Journal. A small few a year ago (including me) said that Skype was disruptive based on its architecture and audio quality. I believe the hidden learning now is more about evolutionary changes that may not look like much in the short term but in the end are quite revolutionary. Skype is beginning to rewire the whole way in which we communicate. It will extend to business processes and social interactions. It's also living proof that telephony is now just a software application.

    Skype provided a few surprises over the last year. Against my early expectations it began to develop a multi-platform capability which is now emerging. In fact one year after launch they have versions for Windows, Pocket PC, Linux, Mac OS X, and soon Palm and Symbian. Less surprisingly SkypeOut launched and is now funding growth and Skype still has not offered premium services or provided solutions directed at traditional enterprise structures.

    Their platform capability means that when they release an effective API just about anyone may be able to develop services that plug into Skype's data and communications network. Early DOS is a good comparison in this regard. Although there it was hardware, Skype is directing their assault at platforms. These platforms have long life spans and the operating piece they are carving out is underdeveloped. While Microsoft looks at Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba, etc, Skype is looking at the platform suppliers as manufacturers.

    So their strategy poses a continued strategy for both Telecoms and Microsoft “Windows”. Telecoms are threatened by the cost structure and the long-term challenge to their “numbering” system. While “Windows” will be challenged by Skype if the API is open enough because the incentive will exist to develop an “office” platform for Linux that integrates presence and availability and communication capabilities with documents and files. While LCS Live Communication Server will offer this capability it requires a central server and my guess is still a lower quality audio engine. A successful Skype gives new utility to a Linux desktop at significantly lower cost vs. Windows. If the API enables easy cross platform solutions then this market may explode.

    So for communications “Powered by Skype”. What could kill the opportunity? If they think like a telecom they will be dead. Thus these are moves Skype cannot make.

  • They should not add the overheads and billing structure for associating landline numbers to Skype. Rather they should find a way to connect with users' current landline numbers. The BT communicator provides one example while other hardware solutions are possible. Integrating SkypeIn with my home phone or a mobile number reduces my risk while providing new opportunities to control my long distance costs. Skypers all want this. The challenge is to create a global solution not limited by current numbering.
  • Skype can't remain completely closed, although it can remain proprietary. It will in time extend an API so new services and markets can be generated around it. Presence will be the first item to be unbundled. Then with time “tagging” will enable the conversations and connections to travel with documents.
  • They can't ignore further enhancements to audio quality. Skype should introduce Stereo and 3D sound capabilities. While extra conferencing features are lower priorities, integrating Skype into gaming opportunities would enable Skype to access a younger audience that may help its transition to mobile platforms.
  • I personally think the current video / cam formats are not a big deal although it can add new information and begin to extend “presence” See this Earthlink example. Note how they use and integrate video into presence information. In the Earthlink example picture it is more about context, context aids communication eg has someone walked into the office, is there a meeting on, is he on the phone, or with his feet up, etc.

  • September 17, 2004

    Disruption & Convergence

    Where will the new communications companies create value? Two posts today... One tracing to the "End of Telecom" and the other another "End of E-Mail". What will superceed the phone and e-mail as the primary means of doing business?

    Via Om Malik Daniel Berninger's post is a good read.

    As Dan points out in his well worded op-ed, The End of Telecom,
    "The telephone incumbents find themselves in a bind not unlike the railroads with the arrival of the automobile or the mainframe with the arrival of minicomputers/PC's. The much noted convergence of data and voice networks really amounts to a hostile takeover of communication by the information technology sector. The Internet did not get invented to displace the PSTN, but continuous improvement makes this outcome inevitable. "
    In any of those scenarios, the industry suppliers were the worst hit, and so were the profits. In my own piece I have argued that we are still in the middle of a death spiral of telecom, and new technologies like VoIP are only going to accelerate the race to the bottom.

    Om Malik

    Stowe on the case for real-time response and impact on IM.

    A new Corante Brief (available here in PDF): Stowe Boyd Consumer instant messaging has led to a communication revolution that has swept worldwide, and is now charging the face of business. Stowe Boyd

    Finally a link to a resource paper via Denham Grey. Actually it is more of a book and I'm not through it all yet. Yet it may help with thinking through how business processes must change, and where organizations need to be more adaptive in introducing new tools.

    COINs follow examples of the open source ethos, participants are early adopters and they adhere to principles of collaborative knowledge networking. This seems to a fusion of social networks, enabled by web technology and knowledge sharing. Denham Grey

    Skype Blitz - Skypers Wants

    I’d been working on my one year Skype thoughts and found that I needed to posit it in more bite sized pieces for the blog. Plus that meant I didn’t have to stick to an order. So this post targets the question. What Skypers really want! I’m not alone in asking this. Recently Andreas posted to the forum.

    First and foremost se SKYPERS expect and want SkypeOut to work. There has been a big jump since Skype 1.0 was launched and we know they have at least 100k accounts. However, the quality is still not consistent and that is from my experience and reading the forums. Sometimes it is brilliant, other times it is hopeless. The biggest consumer issue is when you initiate a SkypeOut call and it fails. Then you almost always have to pick up a regular phone. It’s a different kind of conversation. It’s also one of fine balance for Skype. All PSTN interconnects are of lower audio quality. Skype needs to transition users, it must also make the most of its audio platform.

    Next in line:

  • Skypers want Skype in a handset. They want to move around with it. No more tethered to the PC. In the short-term they want it to work with their current cordless phones. Later perhaps some new next generation handsets. Or even on my mobile phone.

  • Skypers want integration with their landline or with their “number”. People still think this way. With SkypeOut enabling number dialing we now want PSTN callers to be able to call in on the SkypeLine. See also my post on SkypeIn. They don't want new numbers or funny area codes for the most part.

    These are the two biggies. They are the ones that can grow the audience and create the SkypeHome. Solutions for these must also address 911 calling. There are some other things that are coming and consistently on the forum request list.

  • Top of this list is Video. I’m sure it is not far away. The danger is that video is introduced in a way that merely mimics other IM products. By contrast adding further enhancement to the audio quality will make Skype usage and future device developments even more compelling.

  • Many still want voice mail. While this is a system failure when one has presence when linked to phones and or a lack of presence info, we may still need voice mail. A simpler approach that would enable revenue straight away would be to enable call forwarding and a presence signal that I’m on mobile. Then all calls would be forwarded to my mobile. I’d simply pay the two cents per minute. Of course returning that call may be difficult (international in to cell) at the moment.

  • Similarly many want recording capabilities. It is another consistent request in the forums.

  • I think next is Hoot n Holler buttons and permanent conference calls although this is not often mentioned. Skype already enables up to 15 callers to be put on hold, so you would think that semi- permanent conferences (call it an intercom) is on the list and feasible.

    I know there are many more that take Skype beyond this type of paradigm. However these are the examples that new users can put to use immediately. Plus they make it different.

  • September 20, 2004

    PSTN's Audio Handicap.

    A supportive duo for the new order of telecoms. Rob Paterson on regaining human contact and new refinements in audio quality. And Om Malik on the VoIP Insurrection. Both are long and enjoyable posts. Om's finishes with a warning that telecoms won't go easy. They won't. In fact the only way to attack as an upstart is to create a business that is something else entirely and do nothing that looks like a traditional telecom. I've taken an audio quality angle on the quotes below.

    The quality is so good that I can hear a large part of the emotional state of the other in their voice and their voice pattern. The spirit is in our breath. Our breath is I find an indication of our spirit. When we ask a friend "How are you?' The tone of their response rather than the word themselves tells us all. A problem for the modern world is that most of us listen only to the words. One of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell has a new book coming out on this topic. called Blink - Thinking Without Words. So with Skype, the human value of the contact is very high. When you combine this with the low cost - essentially free - and the social context of community, the core aspect of prior blogging, you really "meet" the other person..................... Skype allows conference calls on voice. It is inevitable that in 3 years, we will be as fully present over time and distance as we could be in person. We would miss only the pheromone channel. Robert Paterson

    One attempt by AT&T to improve voice quality in the early 90's illustrates the PSTN's handicap. Marketing studies indicated customers might prefer a low end (i.e. bass) audio boost. Sony implemented this with a "MegaBass" switch on their Walkman product line. AT&T wanted to do the same thing in hopes of competing with MCI and Sprint on voice quality rather than price. The consumer Vice-President at AT&T, Joseph Nacchio, pushed through an $800 million project to get the job done. AT&T could not simply install a switch on telephones analogous to the Sony's solution. AT&T had to alter the signal processing incorporated in echo cancellers throughout the network. These network wide modifications produced irate customers not more customers. The higher sound levels caused operators distress and amplified existing network quality problems. Om Malik

    September 21, 2004


    Still mulling Aswath's comment on VoIP User (obtain your free UK local-rate telephone number (DID) which can be forwarded to any landline in a number of countries in the World, your SIP software or hardware phone) over.

    How is it that the service is so inexpensive? Indeed, VoIPuser gives away virtual numbers in UK and will terminate the calls to not just any SIP or IAX2 destination, but also landlines in selective countries for, get this, free! For me this all the more remarkable, till I realized that they are taking the kickback charges they receive for terminating the call, to pay for the forwarding of the call.

    Given the service offered by VoIPuser (and soon to be joined by LibréTel), one clearly observes that VoIP technology is not needed in the access to offer virtual number service. More importantly, another "revolutionary service" afforded by VoIP turns out to be an arbitrage play. What happens to the viability of the business plan of this service if the "bill and keep" regime advocated by many VoIP players is indeed instituted? Aswath Weblog

    Mobile + SIP Convergence

    More on how converged networks mean I could get my cellphone ringing on my PC, my homephone ringing on my Wi-Fi enabled cell phone etc.?

    The initiative shows that, however reluctant some cellcos have been to embrace Wi-Fi and the potential erosion of GPRS/3G revenues, there is now a critical mass of operators that realize multiple networks are the way of the future. Wireline and full service carriers such as BT and France Telecom are also moving rapidly towards converged next generation networks and services that support cellular, wired telephony, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Wi-Fi/cellular hand-off standard proposed :: Voip User ::

    Be interesting to see some mobile operators provide some SIP interconnect packages. At least then i could effectively use my cellphone number on my computer at home. This is not a new thought.

    "We believe SIP-based instant messaging on the fixed Internet could take off as fast as SMS and create a significant market for SMS to SIP gateways. In this scenario, it is likely that mobile operators will benefit most from SIP deployment." Session Initiation Protocol: SIP

    September 22, 2004

    One Step Beyond the Buddylist

    I sometimes get a little disenchanted as I see yet another article on "presence" as a killer app that starts with buddylists and little icons. (See below.) I don't see much discussion on methods and means to enhance presence and make it even more useful. I'm not using the term "presence" broadly here. This is a brief note that says it is time to start thinking about how presence indicators and information can be integrated in the emerging messaging systems.

    At the simplest level the opportunity exists to create new categories of presence. "SkypeMe" on Skype just an example (you can search Skypers for those with "SkypeMe" now active. Current presence status lists just aren't very imaginative ( They also tend to be single state. Online, away, Not Available, DnD, etc.). The context of sharing presence is also limited to buddies. However there are many opportunities for sharing presence that will come available. For example sharing presence info with an information service. That might trigger news updates, and synch me with people who have similar interests in a story. Also sharing presence information with a vetting service or reputation service may filter and eliminate unwanted interruptions.

    The explosion of interest in presence is also driven by communication companies trying to solve every call forwarding / call location issue ever dreamed up. This feels like a dead end. By contrast there is an opportunity to use IM and presence as a better routing tool. Routing information via IM whether RSS updates, travel advisories, calendar reminders all make sense to me. However, sometimes I'm not available for those services. Thus presence is broadened by extending it beyond the "buddylist" metaphor to enable different forms of access management.

    Then there is another kind of presence. The 'I was there' kind of presence. News events, corporate meetings, gatherings, where presence information may be useful to others for follow-up. A variation would be a document that you wrote being read or reviewed by someone else. In an organization knowing the author is available may be important even if you are not on their buddy list. When we leave presence trails "Stuart was here" on websites or otherwise there can be great benefits. I can imagine problems too! Just an example like spray paint on a rock. In these cases the presence information should have some form of expiry / renewal capability. For example I may participate in an online forum, I forget about it, I may not want to continue broadcasting my presence there. However leaving presence information on another person's blog with a comment may encourge more follow-ups and more interesting dialogues. However, that same info could expire and disappear after a few days, or be controlled in a different fashion.

    Similarly, when I want something fixed, or information from a call center, why do I have to go through that long wait. Why can't I just leave my presence information in a way that gets dealt with when convenient for me. Once its answered my presence data, disappears from the call center. This same methodology could work for call-back requests. Eg I put in a Skype text message a call back request. They may provide different presence information even if my global presence is set to not available.

    The killer app is presence. IM users see evidence of it every day in their buddy lists as a little icon that shows someone is online. But down the road, experts say, presence will separate itself from IM and evolve into a network service tapped by applications and corporate communication services, including telephony Presence applications poised for takeoff
    When one just scratches the surface one begins to see that the traditional IM offerings (MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ) have failed to leverage the opportunities that are hidden in presence . Enabling the connection of "Presence" data to new services, and tying it to call response and connection capabilities and services requires an approach that is more open than these IM offerings have created todate. Concurrently they are also hampered by their own structure and design. As they run centralized presence servers as part of their application broadcasting presence information costs them money. So far they've not seen fit to spin off their "presence operations into separate businesses as the article above implies. However, even then they won't create a presence market. A presence market will exist when an API exists that enables a multiplicity of vendors to start selling different types of presence services. Skype with limited resources, no effective central server, seems perfectly positioned to midwife next generation presence.

    About September 2004

    This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in September 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    August 2004 is the previous archive.

    October 2004 is the next archive.

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