Thursday, January 1, 2009

VoIP Was Never Alive

Alec Saunders article: 2008: "The Year that VoIP died" has made quite a bit of stir over the last few days so I thought I'd add my own commentary to the pot.

Let me first start by saying that VoIP as a revolutionary business model never existed to die.

Lets take a few steps back and remember where it all started. People either don't know or tend to forget that the Internet was created for one purpose. It was created for secure non centralized and in fact peer to peer voice communications, this was proposed all the way back in the early 60's. It was to be the phone system of the military and the huge advantage would be no physical or logical central point of control open to attack by the "enemy". So lets not forget that on it's first birthday, the Internet was all about VoIP and almost everything that has happened since in the world of VoIP (Voice and Video over IP) has been a very predictable and linear evolution. VoIP as an industry and technology has been about making the technology better incrementally and not a revolution, well almost everything, we will come back to this later after we remind ourselves what was revolutionary about the Internet.

By the mid 70's virtually all major research centers whether military, industrial or academic were connected to the Internet on an international level. And because of it's OPEN nature, the researchers were for all practical purposes allowed to use the network for whatever they chose to or could imagine, within the limits of the technology. Because of this important step it was easy for this group to turn the Internet from a voice network into a Galactic Network of globally interconnected computers through which anyone could run programs and access files located anywhere in the "cloud" and this led to one true revolution which nobody expected, that of the web, which is undergoing it's own predictable evolution.

So what was that one thing about VoIP which has been revolutionary? Simply a social and political oversight. As this network motivated by an open and non commercial design due to it's research and military use kept growing and evolving very unpredictably into commercial and mass society, no one was thinking (or those that were stayed very quiet) about the fact that a network capable of carrying voice with no central control negated the need for tariffs, the revolution was that VoIP arbitrage became a reality and this has led to the clear and reasonable prediction that voice will die as a commodity. So to distill my point, yes, VoIP arbitrage was a very exciting and disruptive revolution, but as Alec points out, we have been there and done that and after roughly a decade the excitement is dying out over this revolutionary segment of the telecoms industry. This has nothing to do with VoIP dying out or its quiet evolution. We are being introduced to VoIP products and services all the time that have the potential to make the world better and different than it was yesterday. Whether it's a new conferencing platform that ties in to social networks easily with an easy to use interface, a high definition video phone carrier which reminds us of the Jetsons or a PBX aiming to be so simple to manage that consumers can own and control their own telephony, these are incremental changes that bring us closer to the world that was predicted by the first Netizens 50 or so years ago.

A couple of final notes, we say the hype and business of VoIP arbitrage is dying out, but remember or realize, the worlds biggest IP network will not necessarily be the Internet, it just might be a closed network dominated by cellular carriers. Also there is no guarantee that the Internet itself will remain open as currently is the case. If a tiered Internet becomes a reality then the commodity market of Voice/Video and information packets/minutes will continue to a lively topic ;)

1 comment:

Business VOIP said...

You make some good points in your post. It's interesting to see the evolution of the internet go full circle...but if the internet goes to a tiered system then we are all screwed!