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Hot and bothered about plumbing.

Back on December 30 of last year, Skype Journal’s Phil Wolff was opining in the Skype 4.x discussion group on what he’d do if Skype were more open.  This is some of what Phil wrote:

I’d be building Skype relationships and conversations into web sites. into mobile apps. i’d be in mashup heaven.

i’d be creating thin flash skype clients that showed when skype contact groups/categories were on facebook (seeking quorum in context).

i’d be datamining my history to figure out who i have to talk to next/soon, and when might be a good time. (proactive relationship gardening, friendrankTM) "3 days 2 hours since you talked with your girlfriend"

i’d create an app that launched whenever someone IM’d or called me for the first time that day, and show me what they’ve been up to lately. (Rich Caller ID)

i’d try to integrate skype into google office, the other app/suite i use 8 hours a day.

i’d build a toolkit for those who want to replace skypecasts.

i’d let you leave comments on skype journal using the Skype authentication service.

i’d build video call comments into blogs.

i’d be offering skype-life backup, without any downloads, of your profile, your contacts, your history, etc.

Phil’s list is a clear illustration of the reason for my writing 2008: The Year that VoIP died

Another piece worth reading is Jeff Pulver’s fabulous rebuttal, which included a new label – Internet Communications Continuum – that Jeff explains as follows:

…when I refer to the Internet Communications Continuum, I am referring to how I envision the continued evolution of the IP Communications Industry. In my case, this continuum represents all forms of IP Communications, including: VoIP, Instant Messaging, Presence, IP Signaling, Internet TV, Unified Communications, Social Media and more.

Amen to that.  I’m not sure I like the label Internet Communications Continuum, but I definitely agree with Jeff’s vision. 

If you think about what Jeff has written in the context of Phil’s list, it becomes pretty clear that what we’re all talking about is an open communications platform.  Jeff’s vision of the world isn’t possible in a closed network, and Phil is articulating clearly why it isn’t possible in Skype’s closed world.

Todd Spraggins amplifies that when he writes in comments the following observation:

the PSTN has what is still lacking in VoIP and yet carries so much baggage that keeps us from going forward. VoIP as an infrastructure is not ubiquitous, it does not have a universally successful utility/business model (other than some notable exceptions like Voxeo), it does not have open interfaces (especially in the API camps) and its namespace is practically unnavigable. Furthermore, the dependence on PSTN is only getting us closer to the regulatory entrapment and monopolistic pricing structures that VoIP was supposed to enable us to escape from as we meddle too long in a transitional funk.

To me, that pretty much sums it up. We communications “visionaries” have some pretty grand ideas about the future, but until there is common agreement on the basics, the future of a VoIP industry is limited to islands of functionality glued together with aging plumbing. 

What do you think?  Am I barking up the wrong tree, or like Ted Wallingford, do you agree that it’s hard to get “hot and bothered about plumbing”.

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