IIT VoIP Conference speech

Friends,  Netizens, Developers, Lend me your ears.
I have come to bury VoIP, not to praise it.
The protocols men build live after them.
The good intentions often interred in the message boards.
So let it be with VoIP, the keepers of access
Told us VoIP was merely new access
If this is so, it was a fatal error.
Skype says “VoIP is Dead”, and I have lost my bearings.
And VoIP has rightly paid the price for its ambitions.
And access providers will use VoIP for compost
Regulators are the gatekeepers of public good.
They all work for the good of the public.
VoIP was more than this to me and I will miss VoIP.
But the gatekeepers said that VoIP was access.
And they are the keepers of the public good.
VoIP integrated Instant Messaging and inspired Skype!
Included Video and Presence information signaling
But VoIP was merely access and deserved to die.
VoIP that the commission said was enhanced
Is now called access by the gatekeepers of the public good.
But even as I look at the remains of VoIP
The Presence of VoIP is still with me.
It was the presence of VoIP that inspires me.
And I will not rest until the Presence is returned

Forgive my malformed Shakespeare as I reply to Jonathan Christensen’s VoIP is Dead speech and ask you all to rethink the term VoIP with me.  When I came to the Internet, I was a bell-head focused on the issues of modem banks and circuit switches.  My thoughts were of signaling and redirection for the protection of the switches.  Enabling software to talk to switches about the Internet traffic struck me as not only valuable but essential for my customers to talk.

Today, the switches I tried to impact with software are now themselves little more than software, but somewhere along the way these softswitches lost the model of signaling that made them valuable to the Internet.  These switches are so far removed from the traffic they support, that the connectivity they provide is indistinguishable from the devices they replaced.  And yet they get to be called VoIP.

Part of this confusion that allows POTS over IP to be called VoIP is the issue of price. The vision for adoption of VoIP included the saving of money and ITSPs were created with very little cost and reach. The ITSPs margins was arbitrary based on settlements. When Jeff Pulver was running the Minutes Exchange known as MIN-X the concept of  VONage was born because the buy side, which at the time was nascent at best, had no way to reach the edge.

Unfortunately, Vonage ended up selling the service not based on Internet communication, but as POTS over IP with very few enhancements to the IP experience.

But the true Internet model was more apparent when looking at ICQ (the first Presence and Instant

Messaging service) which had an adjunct piece of software called QTALK.   This model separated the access information from the voice communication.. It was viral because access via dial up was often contentious and the status of someone made for better communication using voice and text (chat).
But after that initial adoption, new presence applications not associated with access were adopted slowly.

When Yahoo! first entered the Instant Messaging market, they loaded the application with enough additional features that the lack of buddy’s on your list was acceptable.  Presence Interoperability was considered essential by many in the industry as AOL / ICQ dominated the space.

Jeff Pulver ran presence and instant messaging conference at the turn of the century, but interoperablility started being selectively negotiated in 2005 with Blake Irving and Brad Garlinghouse agreeing to interoperate Yahoo! and MS Messenger.

This was two years after Skype started to dominate the marketplace as a client that was totally independent of any access method.  The adoption reflected the migration from dial up to to connections we generously call broadband.

However, even Skype with its millions of users and the benefit of a viral community sought connectivity with the PSTN with SkypeIn and SkypeOut.

These services were not because of the landline connectivity, but the nomadic growth of the Wireless industry.

And here we are.  Awaiting the ubiquity of the next generation of the Wireless Internet and being placated with devices that again we generously call Internet Enabled.

Many of us are thinking the answer is in social networking. Believing the massive communities online in various communities achieve the goal of gaining critical mass.

I would contend that we are again losing our focus.  It should be our mission to make presence a beneficiary of  Metcalfe’s law.

Being an application available to all on the Internet is not as valuable as Internetworking our applications together.

Metcalfe’s law promises that all applications that share connectivity between each other is six times more valuable than running in parallel.

I am advocating not just parallel play on some store on the cloud, or integration with an API.  But a creative commons of presence.

We are being lost in the forest of what my friend David Jodoin calls Technocrud.

We, the communication services, are in a drop in the applications available on the Apple’s iStore, Facebook, and other activities currently planned by the service providers and their vendors. Not only isolated but have a poor adoption rate

We represent less than 10% of the messaging apps as cateogorized by facebook . Applications are being called communications because they send gifs of hallmark cards, share notifications, location information, and messages in near real time email like solutions. These are “better than what we had” but not what can be.

And here we are in the darkness of closed systems that ubiquitously isolates our communication as we chat within their domains. Once again the Internet is being used to isolate in aggregate.

Many of us are transcending these communities such as Calliflower, but we can go farther if we enable URIs or other identifiers that can be accessed from a common query.

And we need this collective ability.  We need to maintain the public Internet signal.

In my humble opinion, both Skype and the iPhone are beneficiaries of auxiliary (peripheral or secondary) opportunities.  Skype from the base that was part of Kazaa, and Apple’s iPhone from the iTunes / iStore customer base.  Neither of them in my humble opinion could have launched without the base of their previous users.

I would contend that like the age of VON the trouble of showing the possibility of something more has eluded us and will continue to elude is if we do not enable presence connectivity amongst our applications.

We need demonstrable improvements in communication that enable users to not only say – I want that application, but I need that application.  Applications that cannot be confused with unifying a series of previously offered communication tools. More personally private and yet more publically identifiable.

And I believe we need have most of the tools we need today.

If we manage to share presence information collectively we gain a few benefits. The first is that we are gaining the benefits of Metcalfes law.  The second is we are promoting applications to the community.  If my status were to say, “Alwaysoncarl is busy using GoogleTalk”,

We should understand that with today’s asynchronous communication privacy has to be self-managed.  I would like to think that the Data Portability Forum will look at these issues.

Presence information should be part of everything we convey and communicate.

However, the ability to communicate should not require inclusion on a specific system.  Therefore communication at minimum should be convertible and transportable as part of the Internet overall.  I should point out that people are doing with content not associated to the Internet, so it is somewhat hypocritical for us not to be able to do this from within the community.

Every application that connects to every other application benefits the story of User – Initiated Internet Communication [UIC]. If we spent half the time working on presence aware application interoperability as we did to PSTN interoperability we would be at far better place in communicating with the regulators and legislators.

As the current administration draws to a close a number of long standing rules are being attacked.  And as economic issues face the world, governments are going to be looking for revenues.

I also want to warn that the recent purchase of a web based API framework by a keeper of access may in the long run be harmful.

Most importantly by enabling communication between applications, transport and communication would not be considered bundled.  Quality of Service if it exists as a problem should be solved by the edge.  While my friend Henry would tell me to leave the dead to bury the dead, the dead will come back to haunt us if we do not differentiate ourselves from the plain and the old telephone system of the past.  We should not allow the gatekeepers of access to associate us with a dull black phone service.

As Netizens, applying Metcalf’s law clearly shows our common good is the public good.   If we do not become “Presence – aware Application Caesars” we will find that all glory is fleeting.

Thank you.

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