I’ve had some time to noodle on Voice 2.0 / Web 2.0 similarities and differences since Saturday. There are definite differences, largely due to the fact that voice is a real time communications medium, whereas the web tends to be asynchronous. Tim’s 8 characteristics of Web 2.0 are:
- The Long Tail
Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.
- Data is the Next Intel Inside
Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data.
- Users Add Value
The key to competitive advantage in internet applications is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide. Therefore: Don’t restrict your "architecture of participation" to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application.
- Network Effects by Default
Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.
- Some Rights Reserved. Intellectual property protection limits re-use and prevents experimentation. Therefore: When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for "hackability" and "remixability."
- The Perpetual Beta
When devices and programs are connected to the internet, applications are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing services. Therefore: Don’t package up new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you know how people use the new features.
- Cooperate, Don’t Control
Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services. Therefore: Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.
- Software Above the Level of a Single Device
The PC is no longer the only access device for internet applications, and applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that are connected. Therefore: Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet servers.
This definition is actually a little limited — it can’t account for IM, for instance. Or perhaps that omission is intended. In the voice world, the idea of the long tail doesn’t make a lot of sense. We don’t tend to archive voice conversations for long periods of time. Nor do we really have to worry about cross platform — it’s an assumption that’s been around the world of communications for a long time.
The other six characteristics are very intriguing. If you were to apply them to voice, the implications are quite profound. You might expect:
Data driven communications. Opt-in services, such as directories, spanning many carriers, would be a logical outcome here. Data concerning users, usage patterns, and relationships amongst users will be a key part of this world. By default, this information will be collected as a natural outcome of the service. In contrast with today’s world, the usage of data in the communications infrastructure is quite limited. Much valuable data is collected, but then used for mundane but necessary tasks like billing.
Instant feature deployment. Features can be added at any time provided they are added server side. Skype is on a 30 to 45 day release cycle at the moment, but that may slow as the sheer mass of clients in the market changes. At this point, they have a problem which is that protocol changes will require the replacement of all existing clients, unless 100% backward compatible. A Voice 2.0 application shouldn’t have that constraint. Again, in sharp contrast to today’s world where even the most uncomplicated features go throught 12 to 18 month trial cycles. The trial, as we know it, will disappear in a Voice 2.0 environment.
Programmability. Today’s telecom infrastructure components are programmable, but only by skilled technicians with access to lab equipment. In a Voice 2.0 world, lightweight programming models will allow loosely coupled services to access information and services exposed by other services. It’s not just data, either. We should expect to see publicly exposed API’s for session control as well. This will lead to an open market place for competing services, and more importantly, to new, previously unheard of services. Again, this is a very different world from the status quo in the telecom industry.
The fundamental roadblock to doing any of this work within the current carrier infrastructure is PSTN access. Today, the companies most nearly executing against this vision are doing VoIM. Even so, they all have proprietary client software, and none are executing on data driven communications strategies.
Coming up next: a Voice 2.0 manifesto