I’m at eComm, the Emerging Communications Conference, for the next couple of days. Over dinner last night a heated debate erupted over open standards in telephony, the genesis of which was my Voice 3.0 piece posted on Friday. I didn’t explicitly state that open standards are important to the Voice 3.0 vision. Dan York took me to task over the same issue last Friday, and then we discussed it again on the VUC call this morning.
It wasn’t an omission on my part.
In a business that depends on network effects, as the communications business does, interoperability is critical. How we get there, whether it be through a standards body, or via a de-facto standard as Skype has become, isn’t that important. What’s important is that there be sufficient open-ness for an ecosystem to flourish.
In platform markets those that call for Open Standards are typically the number two or three players in the market, seeking to unseat a dominant incumbent. In other words, the adoption of a standards body sanctioned standard is a competitive strategy, and not an inherent “goodness”.
The dominant player can do three things when faced with an one standards competitor: compete harder, adopt the standard, or find a standards body willing to anoint their proprietary technology as a standard. It would not surprise me in the least to see Skype, for example, choose any of these strategies in the future.
And that’s the reason I left the adoption of an open standard out of the Voice 3.0 manifesto.