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Posts from September 2011

Speaking Next Week on IPv6 and VoIP Security at 7th Real-Time Communications Conference in Chicago

If any of you will be in Chicago next week, October 4-6, 2011, for the 7th Annual Real-Time Communications Conference & Expo, I'll be there on the 5th and 6th as a speaker.

I'll be speaking twice. First on Wednesday the 5th at 4pm on "The Current State of VoIP Security", wearing my VOIPSA hat and leading off a series of talks about security. I'll be providing an overview of the main threats to VoIP and communications security in general, leading the way into the two more specific talks following mine.

I'm rather excited that my second session will be my first public appearance wearing my new Internet Society hat (if you are not aware, I've posted details about my recent move) and will of course be about IPv6... more specifically "How IPv6 Will Impact SIP And Telecom".

Due to ongoing events on the personal front, I wasn't sure that I was going to make it out there... and quite frankly there's still a chance that I won't... but I should be out there.

If you look at the conference schedule, the speakers include outstanding people involved with so many different aspects of real-time communications. It should be truly an excellent event!

P.S. You can still register if you would like to attend!

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The Economist Asks: Who Should Run The Internet?

Who should run the Internet? Should it continue in the "multi-stakeholder" way it has operated so far? Or should governments have more of a say in how it is run?

The Economist captures that argument in a piece out today entitled "A plaything of powerful nations" that reports on the meeting this week in Nairobi of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The article rather succinctly covers some of the tension and challenges around public policy issues I briefly mentioned in my recent post about joining the Internet Society.

A key point for me is this (my emphasis added):

The multi-stakeholder approach dates from the beginnings of the internet. Its founding fathers believed that more openness would be both more secure and better for innovation. What is more, since the internet is a network of independent networks, it is hard to construct a form of governance that allows anyone to dictate things from the top.

Yet as the article notes, many governments would like to try - and the power struggle is really only beginning.

There are definitely going to be some interesting times ahead...

NOTE: While I am now employed by the Internet Society, I am NOT involved with the public policy activities of the organization and all comments and viewpoints expressed here are entirely mine alone as an individual.

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Did Amazon Just Fork The Android Operating System?

Did Amazon just fork the Android operating system with their Kindle Fire? That's the question asked at Mashable today in a post "Amazon Kindle Fire Just Hijacked Android where it was noted that all the promotion around the Kindle Fire did not mention Android. The key piece to me is this:

Amazon is not the first company to use Android for its devices, only to customize the UI and add its own App Store...

Still, Amazon’s customization of Android goes above and beyond re-theming the interface. Amazon has created its own apps for email, video playback (using Amazon Instant Video), music and books...

Amazon is using Android 2.3 as its base, not the tablet-specific Honeycomb, and we expect that the company has taken the opportunity to optimize 2.3 specifically for the Kindle Fire’s hardware.

Likewise, instead of applying tweaks to the basic Android web browser, Amazon chose to build its own: Amazon Silk...

The tragedy here is that the Amazon Kindle Fire will undoubtedly be a very popular device. At $199, I can see many people picking these devices up.

And it could be a great opportunity to bolster the Android ecosystem.

To encourage and nurture a further competitive marketplace for apps.

But the challenge is stated well in the Mashable piece:

We expect Amazon to start courting Android developers to make customized Kindle Fire-specific versions of their apps.

It's not an Android device... it's an Amazon device. And though it may use Android as a base, it has a highly customized layer on top.

Do we now have effectively yet another application ecosystem?

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Congrats, I think, to Alec Saunders as RIM's New VP of Developer Relations

Congratulations (I think) to my friend Alec Saunders for taking a new role as "VP of Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development" for Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry line of mobile devices.

Or perhaps condolences are in order... somehow he has to make developing for the Blackberry sexy again to all the app developers who focus these days on the world of iOS/iPhone/iPad and the Android platform.

Alec certainly has his work cut out for him. As he writes in his post today announcing the news:

Over the last few days I’ve been in San Francisco at the Mobilize conference, and speaking with developers. It’s clear from those conversations that the primary problem we face is lack of support from application developers. My team’s job is to correct that – to win the hearts and minds of mobile developers again.

"Lack of support" probably doesn't go far enough as a statement. Any of a zillion charts will show you Blackberry's rapidly declining marketshare (particularly in the US). iPhones are dramatically outselling Blackberries and Apple is poised to launch iPhone 5 / iOS 5 / iCloud next week, pretty much assuring even more of a boost to the iOS platform and developer ecosystem.

On the Android side, recents stats show twice as many people buying Android devices as iPhones... and today's mega-launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet is going to light an even larger flame under the Android ecosystem.

Plus, add in Microsoft and all they are attempting to do with the Windows Phone platform...

And somehow... in the midst of all of this...

Alec is going to try to get developers excited about developing apps for the Blackberry???

Not just for the Playbook, mind you, but for the traditional Blackberry platforms of "BBOS" and the new QNX platform. As he says in an interview posted on RIM's Blackberry Developer Blog today:

Developer evangelism is all about personal contact, listening, responding, and educating. We’re going to work very closely with the developer community, expand on support and programs that make it easy and rewarding for developers to create apps, be in the midst of developers to understand their needs and secure a great developer experience, and identify and remove the barriers developers face in supporting our platforms and doing business with us.

It's a tough task, made even more challenging by RIM's recent earnings report (or lack thereof), but if anyone has a hope of pulling it off, it's Alec. He's an exceptional communicator, marketer and salesman... and brings both a great technical depth and ability to communicate in "regular" language.

I do seriously wish him all the best! I've been a long-time fan of the Blackberry, even though I myself changed mine in for an iPhone back in 2008 or so. RIM has done some pretty amazing things in the mobile market, but as Gizmodo recently noted ("How RIM Could Save Itself"), RIM tied itself to the enterprise so tightly that it missed out on the rise of smartphones in the consumer space - and the corresponding move of those "consumer" smartphones back into the enterprise.

What will their future look like? Can they win back developers? Can they make the Blackberry ecosystem sexy again? Can it claw its way back into being a player in the smartphone market?

Alec's got a challenge before him - and I look forward to seeing what he'll do!

P.S. Up to join in the challenge? As Alec notes at the bottom of his blog post, he's hiring developer evangelists...

Other notes about Alec's new role:

Image credit: me. Taken at ITEXPO East 2010 in South Beach, Miami :-)

Video: Using an iPad to Create Tropo Applications

Stuck somewhere without a computer but with an iPad? My former colleague Chris Matthieu just posted this amusing video today of how he used only his iPad to create and deploy an application using the Tropo cloud communication service. I don't know what amused me more - that he wrote the app using his iPad... or that he filmed himself using his iPhone! Quite a deft bit of handling to make it all work:

You can, of course, register for a free account and start creating your own voice/SMS/IM/Twitter apps using languages like PHP, Python, JavaScript, Groovy and Ruby...

Mitel Rolls Out UC Apps for iPhone and iPad

Good to see that Mitel is joining the iOS application space with Unified Communications apps for the iPhone and iPad. These apps will work with Mitel's "Freedom" architecture to allow people to use their own iPhone or iPad device with the Mitel corporate phone system.

Per Mitel's news release, the app allows users to:

  • Search the corporate directory and click-to-dial from corporate contact list to place calls through the corporate network.
  • View missed, dialed, and received calls.
  • Access visual voicemail from your office extension and manage messages by preference rather than sequence.
  • Automatically update presence status and call routing preferences based on your location, or time of day.

Given enterprise users' desire to use their own devices, it is not surprising to see these type of apps coming out from a vendor like Mitel. It will be interesting to see how this helps Mitel in the marketplace.

Kudos to the Mitel team for creating the apps.

Ch-changes - Taking A New Job At The Internet Society To Join The Fight For The Open Internet

In the end, my impending job change is perhaps best explained by two quotes: this prescient quote from the 1992 film Sneakers:

“There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”

and this quote from poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

For a longer explanation, read on... but perhaps not on a mobile phone... this one's a bit on the lengthy side...

Bleeding "Voxeo Blue"

voxeologohoriz.pngJust shy of four years ago, I wrote here about joining this incredibly remarkable company, Voxeo, that probably none of you had ever heard of.

I hope I changed that a wee bit. :-)

Around a thousand blog posts later, a hundred videos, too many speaking engagements and webinars to count, many articles, a ton of analyst briefings and media interviews ... and countless tweets, Facebook posts and other updates later... it has been truly an amazing journey.

Along the way I have come to truly love the company - and I don't use that term lightly - and the incredible people who are gathered together focused on making Voxeo THE platform for developing and deploying communications applications. As I mentioned in a recent post, Voxeo is a rocketship, firing into the skies and leaving its competitors behind.

Over these four years, I have been living, breathing, eating, sleeping all things Voxeo... I have been proud to be a "Voxeon"... slice open my skin and it bleeds "Voxeo blue"...

The Larger Battle

And yet... I have never been able to escape the siren call of the larger battle going on all around us. It did not surprise me to find that the Voxeo blog in which I published the most posts is "Speaking of Standards". Listeners to my weekly reports into the FIR podcast have perhaps grown weary of my rants about "single points of failure" and the need for services that are "distributed and decentralized" that allow you to retain control over your information and content. Readers of my blogs have seen my many posts on the theme of "the open Internet".

We have before us a choice of futures.

One choice leads to a future where innovative companies like Voxeo can emerge, thrive, disrupt and succeed.

Another choice leads to a future where what little "innovation" there is exists only at the will of the gatekeepers to the network after appropriate requirements and/or payments are met. Other choices lead to outcomes somewhere in between those polarities.

How will we choose?

Walled Gardens, Redux

The Walled Garden (1)
I began my time online some 30 years ago in the 1980's era of the big "information services". CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, Delphi, The Source, GENIE... and many other names that have long since faded into history.

People accustomed to the ubiquity of the Web today might find it hard to believe that once upon a time you could only get certain news, technical, financial, movie or sports info on the service to which you subscribed... that you could only communicate with people who had accounts on the same system as you.

It was the era of the proverbial "walled gardens"... where each service tried to keep the walls high enough and the content pretty enough that you would never leave.

The forces of "openness" were around, too. Academic networks like BITNET and JANET on the one end and home-grown networks of BBS's like FidoNet on the other, with other networks and things like UUCP and Usenet floating around as well.

And then came this "Internet", the one network to interconnect them all.

And out of that interconnection and interoperability came the world we live in today... out of that chaotic world of engineers and open standards came this network that is now no longer simply a research network but instead has become critical communication infrastructure... and a critical component of commerce.

And with that rise to prominence come all those who would seek to change the nature of the network... for perceived safety... for convenience... for profit... for control... for "security"...

So now we see services like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and more that seek to provide a nice pretty space in which you can exchange messages, photos and more... without ever leaving the confines of the service... they are a walled garden with just many ways to access the garden and to look over the walls.

Everyone wants to own your eyeballs... to host your content... to provide your identity...

And we see companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft seeking to control a large degree of how we connect to and use the mobile Internet...

And we see a change from "permissionless innovation" where anyone can set up a new service... to a model where you have ask permission or agree to certain "terms of service" in order to connect your new service to other services or to have your app available on some platforms...

And we see countries that want to throw up a wall around their citizens... sometimes to keep information from coming in... and sometimes to keep information from going out... and sometimes to be able to shut down all access...

And we see players who did control our communications systems always looking for opportunities where they could maybe, just maybe, stuff the proverbial genie back in the bottle and regain that control they lost...

It's a crazy time...

As one who has lived through our online evolution, and who in fact has been able to do what I do and to live where I live because of the "open Internet", I don't want to see us return into a fractured world of walled gardens.

We can make a different choice.

And So, A Choice

IsoclogoIn the midst of all this craziness exists a global nonprofit organization that many of you may not have heard of. It has a very simple mission:

to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.

The Internet Society, or "ISOC" for short, exists to promote the idea that "the Internet is for everyone", where "everyone" includes people all around the world... and yes, it includes the corporations, service providers, governments and other organizations, too. To support that mission, ISOC undertakes a wide variety of education and policy initiatives around the world, all with the aim of fostering the growth of the open Internet. Local "chapters" of ISOC have sprouted up around the globe pursuing these initiatives at a local/regional level. Perhaps more relevant to many readers, ISOC is the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the group that creates the RFCs and the open standards that describe how the Internet operates today. A significant amount of ISOC's focus is on facilitating the creation and promotion of these open standards. (For those curious to learn more, ISOC's 2010 Annual Report is available online.)

I was actually a dues-paying member of ISOC back in the early '90s, when each month I would read through their print magazine (very ironically, but this was pre-Web) "On The Internet" to learn more about how the Internet was evolving throughout the world. I rejoined again a year or two ago to help in some small way support this very important work. (You can join, too.)

And on this coming Monday, September 19th, I will join the Internet Society as a staff member.

The Missing Link

Missing Link
The particular project I will join within ISOC is a brand new initiative targeted at helping bridge the gap between the standards created within the IETF and the network operators and enterprises who are actually deploying networks and technologies based on those standards. To help translate those standards into operational guidance... to help people understand how to deploy those standards and why they should, what benefit they will see, etc

The initiative is currently called the "Deployment and Operationalization Hub", or "DO Hub", and while that may or may not be its final name, the idea is to find/curate content that is already out there created by others, create content where there are gaps, make it easy to distribute information about these resources... and promote the heck out of it so that people get connected to the resources that they need. The initial focus will be, somewhat predictably, on IPv6, but also DNSSEC and possibly another technology. It is a new project and the focus is being very deliberately kept tight to see how effective this can be,

My title will be Senior Content Strategist and my role will very much be about the creation, curation and distribution of information. Writing articles, reviewing resources, blogging, creating videos, screencasts, etc, Once we have the initial repository built out, there will be a phase next year where we will be out on the conference circuit talking about these technologies and helping people understand how they can get started... and continually adding even more content.

For a guy who loves teaching, writing and "demystifying emerging technology", it's kind of tailor-made. In fact, when ISOC approached me a few months ago with the job description, my wife and I both looked at each other and said "wow, that's me!"

In the end, the goal is to help make it as easy as possible to deploy and use open standards... so that we might wind up collectively making the choices that can lead to an open Internet where innovation can thrive.

I'll still be living in Keene, NH. (Many ISOC employees are remote.) I'll still be blogging in my various blogs. I'll still be speaking at conferences from time to time. I'll be back at IETF meetings again (which I'm VERY much looking forward to). None of that really changes with this move.

Every New Beginning Comes From...

..some other beginning's end. ("Closing Time", by Semisonic)

Leaving Voxeo was decidedly NOT an easy choice. I agonized over the decision for an insanely long time. I work with awesome people who I know I will miss, have been thoroughly enjoying what we are doing and have been looking forward to where the company is going... it has some amazing plans that will even further disrupt the industry!

Some will tell me that I am crazy... that Voxeo is the closest they've seen to a "sure thing"... that leaving is a dumb move.

They may be right.

And yet... recent events in my personal life have highlighted the fragility of our lives and the limited time we have - and the need to pursue one's passion.

And so it is that I end one beginning and start a new one... with the hope that in some small way the new work I do will help companies like Voxeo thrive - and indeed to help continue and expand the conditions that create companies like Voxeo.

We have a choice of futures before us...

Image credits: Gerry Balding, Thomas Gehrke on Flickr.

Video: My Talk on "How IPv6 Will Kill Telecom" from eComm2011

At eComm 2011 this year, I spoke on "How IPv6 Will Kill Telecom - And What We Need To Do About It". I enjoyed giving the talk and have received great feedback about the session (including being asked to give a similar session at other conferences). Organizer Lee Dryburgh has now posted the video:

If you are interested in learning more about IPv6, I put together an IPv6 Resource Page over on Voxeo's Speaking of Standards blog. Enjoy!

P.S. And yes, those of you who have seen previous videos of my presentations will note that my running has paid off... :-)

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Awesome 1954 Bell System Video - How To Dial Your (Rotary) Phone

Started off this morning getting a great laugh out of this classic 1954 Bell System video tweeted out by Larry Cannell. Amazing to think back to the time when the system was changing from just picking up the phone and speaking with an operator to a new system where you "dialed" the phone.

Really the start of the self-service automation of the phone network that we take for granted today.

Fascinating to see the glimpses, too, of the "internal networks" as they "pulled the fuses" from the manual systems and flipped switches on the dial systems. I love the guys pointing a "Go!" finger at the teams to make the transitions!

Of course, you have to wonder how many young people growing up today in the United States have even seen a true rotary dial phone! (We who used them should write down some of our memories before they are forgotten...)

Anyway, enjoy this window into a different time:

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Video: Chris Pirillo to Emcee Voxeo's Customer Summit, Oct 10-12

As I mentioned previously, Voxeo's annual Customer Summit 2011 is coming up October 10-12 in Orlando, Florida. One of the latest bits of news is that Internet entrepreneur and über-geek Chris Pirillo will be the emcee for the event. He recently recorded this video intro talking about his upcoming trip to Orlando:

Chris is a high-energy and highly entertaining guy... and it will be fun to see him in action at the event!

P.S. If you want to attend Voxeo's Customer Summit 2011, space is filling up quickly but there are still a few slots open - register today!

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