For the past few days, the VoIP community has been indulging in a bit of soul-searching. The debate: Is VoIP dead? To pragmatists such as Alec Saunders, the answer is yes. In his well-reasoned polemic, “2008: The Year VoIP Died,” he succinctly writes, “Voice over IP is just a transport and signaling technology. It’s plumbing.” Harsh, but true!
Of course, on the other side of the debate are folks such as Jeff Pulver and Jon Arnold, both with deep interests in the success of VoIP, who seem to think that VoIP is in for a renaissance. Pulver argues that we are going through Internet Communications Continuum, or “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.”
They continue to think of VoIP as a revolution. The reality, however, is more mundane and as Alec said, boring. Where do we come out on this debate? On the side of realism. About two months ago, Ian Bell on our behalf analyzed the state of VoIP and why it was “dead.” We were egged on by some comments made by Skype’s general manager of voice and video, Jonathan Christensen, at an industry conference a few weeks ago.
Towards the end of that post, Ian pointed out that the current spate of problems facing the VoIP sector was lack of imagination on the part of the industry because its players went “after low-hanging fruit and forcing their innovations to be defined within the walls of the PSTN.” It is not just the failed voice service providers who took the easy way out, but also the so-called social voice innovators.
My friend Daemon sees a lot of hope in the new services that are emerging, but I remain skeptical. Not because I am a hater. Far from it. It is just that the VoIP landscape is littered with carcasses of companies that represented mediocrity and marginal ideas. There is some hope on the horizon, but we have been fooled before.
What side are you on?